Nielsen Adds Live Back Into Local Ratings

Nielsen reversed course Thursday (July 1) and told clients it was putting Live program ratings back into its local market reports.
But this time, the ratings firm didn’t have to cut one of its other data streams to do it. Live + Same Day, along with Live + 3-Day and Live + 7 Day, will remain, leaving the decision about which data stream should be currency up to stations and agencies to duke it out in negotiations.

The Live data stream will be added to local people meter and set meter markets, with the start of the September survey period beginning Aug. 26, 2010.

From the moment last fall when Nielsen proposed that Live + Same Day replace Live in the ratings, it set off a firestorm. At the time, Nielsen said it had no choice but to eliminate Live since it didn’t have the capacity to report out four data streams.

That put the research firm in the middle between agencies that only felt comfortable with Live ratings as an indication of commercial viewing and TV stations looking to monetize time-shifted viewing that occurred on the same day programming aired.

Though big agencies such as Starcom and GroupM fought the elimination of Live every step of the way, Nielsen finally stuck to its decision to remove the Live metric on April 1.

Now, three months later, Nielsen solved its capacity problem and put Live back in. Both agencies and stations agree that at least now, everyone in the business can compare Live and Live + Same Day and find the truth somewhere in-between.

“Live is the best approximation of a commercial rating, but it’s not the end game. Where we really want to go is to commercial ratings. Live + Same Day overstates commercial viewing, and Live probably understates commercial viewing, so need to find the middle. When it was taken away, we had no idea where the middle was,” said Kevin Gallagher, evp, director of local activation, Starcom.

Stations, which continue to believe Live + Same Day is a better metric for measuring viewing consumption, believe the comparison will help them make the case that Live falls short as an accurate measure of today’s viewing.

“For comparison purposes, Live is an antiquated way to measure viewing consumption,” said Kathleen Keefe, vp of sales for Hearst Television. “Outside of prime time, most of local programming is watched live or nearly live. The local buying community has to come up with a way to account for the delayed viewing.”

Nielsen plans on issuing back ratings data for April through August 2010, but wasn’t able to provide a date.

The research firm also said it would continue to work on commercial ratings in local markets.

“We are actively exploring alternatives which might more closely mirror the national C3 methodology at the local level. To that end, we have been working with the ANA and select advertisers to test the concept of commercial encoding,” said Sabrina Crow, managing director, local media client services for Nielsen, in the company’s letter to clients.