Update II: Nielsen Modifies Live-Plus-Same-Day Plans

Preventing a revolt among major buying shops that prefer to keep live data as the local TV currency, Nielsen announced Wednesday (Dec. 16) it modified its plan to eliminate live ratings and replace it with a live-plus-same-day in local meter markets. In an effort to appease both stations and agencies, Nielsen told clients Wednesday (Dec. 16) it would split the difference, keeping live ratings in the monthly reports and electronic data files, but go ahead with the original plan to replace live ratings with live-plus-same-day in the overnights.

The modified plan will go into effect Jan. 7 and continue until March 31, 2010, allowing clients to compare the ratings from the two ratings sources.

In November, when Nielsen announced it would change the currency from live ratings to live-plus-same-day, it pleased Nielsen’s station clients but set off a firestorm among agencies. Since then, several major buying shops, the American Association of Advertising Agencies and the Association of National Advertisers asked Nielsen to reconsider its decision and reinstate live-only ratings.

Nielsen turned to its clients to help resolve the conflict. As a result of those discussions, Nielsen came up with a modified approach to ease the transition.

“We have been encouraged by the growing dialogue amongst our clients and we hope that this dialogue will lead to the industry’s coalescing around a set of data streams that will be best suited to conduct business. It is clear, though, that with the holiday season right around the corner, more time is needed for these discussions,” Sabrina Crow, senior vp and managing director of local media client services for Nielsen wrote in a Dec. 16 client letter.

“Nielsen heard from all parties and they’re doing the right thing,” said Rino Scanzoni, chief investment officer for GroupM and chairman of Mediaedge:cia. That’s a far cry from a few weeks ago when he threatened legal action.

Now the situation is reversed and stations are livid, surprised by the change in plans. For first quarter sales, stations will be unable to use live-plus-three-day, a metric used for at least 30 percent of the business. Because the metric will not be available for software buying and selling publications, live-plus-three-day cannot serve as the basis for any estimates or posts.

Stations thought the industry had moved on. “Live only is an inaccurate depiction of daily video consumption and more people are watching television for longer periods of time than ever. Discounting all delayed viewing, even if for 30 seconds, is refusing to acknowledge the way people are watching television programs and commercials, today,” said Kathleen Keefe, vp of sales for Hearst Television.

The debate for a better local metric is far from over. Scanzoni is focused on coming up with a metric that takes into account viewing to commercials, similar to the C3 metric used for national buys.

“We know Live Only ratings are not the long term answer. The answer is not live-plus-same-day, but something that replicates what we have nationally,” said Scanzoni, which has been meeting with Nielsen and station groups. “It’s more challenging on the local level, but there are some things we can extract and come up with a solid surrogate. Both sides want to find a more lasting resolution.”
Mediaweek is a unit of the Nielsen Co. until Dec. 31.