Nielsen Will Complete Its Total Audience Measurement Rollout by March

Agencies to get access beginning Jan. 1

Almost a year after taking the wraps off its multiplatform total audience measurement tool, Nielsen said it has set a release schedule and will complete the rollout of its total content ratings, or TCR, by March 1.

Currently, the company has given access to the data—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—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.

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 delay, said Steve Hasker, global president and COO, was caused by "the reality of working through the data with clients, getting them comfortable with the new data sets that they're seeing."

"That process … I don't know that we underestimated it, but we can never spend enough time with our clients analyzing that data, helping them understand it and figure out what sort of decisions it's going to lead to," Hasker said.

While many networks and buyers have criticized Nielsen's foot dragging when it came to deploying total audience measurement over the past year, today's announcement included statements of support from execs at several participating networks, including CBS, AMC Networks, A+E Networks, ESPN, Univision, Fox and ABC. 

"CBS's content is being consumed across multiple platforms and devices," said David Poltrack, chief research officer of CBS Corp. and president of CBS Vision. "We have been working closely with Nielsen on total audience since last year, and we are pleased with the results thus far. We are deep in the process of evaluating the data and considering its impact on the market, our programming and our advertising partners. We are in support of the syndication schedule for the data, and we are looking forward to working with Nielsen to further expand measurement across even more platforms in the near future."

Lisa Heimann, vp of multiplatform research for Disney/ABC, added: "As Nielsen produces total content ratings as part of its total audience service, necessary time is needed for its clients and their partners to review and understand the changes in both how metrics are calculated versus existing Nielsen measurement as well as time to evaluate the inclusion of viewing on platforms not currently measured. We support a regimented schedule in the evaluation of this new data to ensure the integrity of the marketplace represented."

Nielsen set its total audience measurement plans just days after the company made another long-awaited move, announcing that it will finally phase out paper TV ratings diaries, which are still used in 140 local markets, "in early 2018."