NBCUniversal Says Nielsen’s Total Content Ratings Aren’t Ready, Wants to Delay Rollout

Nielsen reaffirms support and timetable for new platform

NBCUniversal wants to put the breaks on Nielsen's impending rollout of its total audience measurement platform, claiming that "it's not ready for release."

Linda Yaccarino, chairman of advertising sales and client partnerships for NBCUniversal, said she and her company have "deep concerns" about Nielsen's total content ratings, or TCR, product. In a letter Tuesday to Nielsen execs Lynda Clarizio, president of U.S. media, and Sara Erichson, evp of client solutions, Yaccarino said TCR is "not ready for release" and would do "more harm than good" in its current form.

Nielsen said it stands by its new platform—which includes apples-to-apples measurement of all viewing across linear TV, DVR, VOD, connected TV devices (Roku, Apple TV and Xbox), mobile, PC and tablets— and that the rollout remains on track for March 1.

Given how television viewing has shifted so radically in recent years, Yaccarino wrote, "the whole industry eagerly awaits total audience data, and we recognize no solution will be perfect."

"However, a reasonable degree of accuracy and transparency must be minimum requirements for the launch of TCR. TCR is far from meeting these requirements, and its premature release is irresponsible," Yaccarino wrote.

Among NBCUniversal's biggest concerns, according to Yaccarino, are what the company sees as limited implementation, failure to measure out-of-home viewing, incomplete representation of OTT viewership, and that it uses a mix of "disparate digital data collection methods" including panel, census and custom measurement,

In a statement, Nielsen reaffirmed its support for TCR and its current rollout schedule: "Nielsen stands behind our Total Audience Measurement. Total Content Ratings is on schedule to syndicate data on March 1st, at which time Nielsen clients will be able to use the data for external purposes. Up until this time, the data being released to publishers and, subsequently, to agencies is for internal evaluation only."

The statement continued: "Since January 2016, Nielsen has been working with publishers through various implementations of the components of Total Content Ratings and Digital Content Ratings. Currently, dozens of TV and digital media brands are enabled for TV, VOD or digital measurement inside of Nielsen's Total Audience measurement framework. Nielsen does not stipulate which measurements clients should enable, nor the order in which they should enable them. Total Audience Measurement is designed to provide media owners with utmost flexibility to enable the components based on their business priorities."

The company also noted that it regularly discusses implementation and rollout of total audience with its senior research council, which is comprised of 25 TV and agency clients. "We continue to enhance and refine our product with ongoing updates as we work with clients during this period of evaluation," it said.

Yaccarino said NBCUniversal wants to work with Nielsen and the industry to "improve" TCR and "determine a responsible, appropriate launch time line."

In September, almost a year after detailing its total audience measurement platform, Nielsen finalized the timetable for its release.

It was almost a year ago that Nielsen gave Adweek a first look at its total audience measurement plans. At the time, executives had hoped to roll it out in time for this year's upfront presentations, but by March, the company had pushed back the timetable.

The company has given access to the data to the 50-plus participating TV and digital media brands that have been involved in the evaluation process. Until Aug. 1, those networks and brands only had access to their own data and no one else's. Through the end of this year, Nielsen will make "select data" available to agencies and the media.

On Jan. 1, the full total content ratings data will also become available to agencies, while the media will continue to only receive the select data.

Finally, on March 1, the metrics will be available to all Nielsen clients, including all networks, analysts and press. Until then, clients who receive access to the full data will only be able to use it for "internal" purposes, said Nielsen, as they evaluate the data before the full release in March.

Since Nielsen set its timetable, many media executives have publicly expressed optimism in having that total audience data and being able to use it to transact business at next year's upfront presentation. But time will tell if others will begin to echo NBCUniversal's concerns about the new data as it becomes more widely disseminated.