CNBC Isn’t Offering Nielsen Ratings Guarantees During the Day Anymore

Financial network offers internal numbers instead

CNBC, the financial news network, is done with daytime Nielsen ratings.

"They are no longer guaranteeing the business day, which is the most important daypart for a financial client," a source told Adweek. "They believe that their primary business day viewing is done in offices and therefore not monitored by Nielsen and underrepresented." 

And to some extent, that's probably the case. The smaller a network's audience, the less accurate its Nielsen ratings are going to be, and the ratings for CNBC have gotten ever-smaller in the last few years, as have ratings at its competitors. The network will continue to guarantee in prime time.

But, of course, CNBC is also one of the few networks for which daytime ratings aren't a particularly accurate measure of relevant reach. Monitors throughout the Goldman Sachs building play the network to their wealthy executives. The network's show Squawk on the Street broadcasts from inside the New York Stock Exchange. If you work in the financial world—a small world, but one with nearly unlimited spending money—CNBC is ubiquitous in gyms, hotels and elsewhere among areas frequented by bankers and traders.

This has always been the network's contention when low ratings rear their heads—what does it matter if a representative sampling of 40-year-olds across the country have decided to marathon Breaking Bad this month? The network's core viewership is and will continue to be Wall Street, and those are the people on the market for, say, a Lexus or a trip to Bali.

So now, it seems that CNBC has decided to put its money where its mouth is and withdraw guarantees for the daytime, which is a crucial daypart for most people anxious to reach the network's demographics. A source said the network has told advertisers that only half its clients asked for guarantees, anyway. That probably worked out very well for that half because if you're getting your deliveries regardless of ratings and your price is pegged to ratings guarantees, you may have gotten make-goods this last year even though you were reaching your audience.

Instead, said a source close to the network, the company is offering guarantees based on its own internal measurement of ad deliveries. It's not an ideal situation, certainly—third-party measurement is a large part of what makes TV advertising so valuable—but parent company NBCUniversal has been revising its advertising sales apparatus radically in recent months.

Part of that strategy seems to be finding more efficient measurement wherever possible and also leveraging its advantages in a serious way. Variety reported last week that the network will not only raise Super Bowl spot prices to an unprecedented $4.5 million for new advertisers, but it will also require an additional $4.5 million in commitments elsewhere in the portfolio to secure the privilege of buying a Super Bowl spot in the first place. Now, it looks like another component is unilaterally abandoning inefficient measurement when there are no good numbers to be had.

Asked whether the company was abandoning Nielsens for daytime, the network offered the following from Seth Winter, evp, news and sports ad sales group: "While we completely agree that CNBC's core audience remains virtually unmeasured by current traditional metrics, our agreements with our clients are confidential," Winter wrote. "As we continue to explore the best measurement opportunities, our conversations with clients include new metrics that accurately demonstrate the power of the CNBC audience."