Nielsen Adopts L+SD in Favor of Live Metric

The debate over Nielsen’s decision to make live-plus-same-day the local TV currency in meter markets is over. On Tuesday (March 30), the ratings giant told clients that beginning April 1, the live-plus-same-day data stream will replace the live metric as the one used for planning and buying local TV.

Originally, Nielsen planned to eliminate the live metric in January, setting off a firestorm among portions of the agency community that demanded the live metric be kept. As a compromise, Nielsen modified the plan, keeping live ratings in the monthly reports and electronic data files during a transition period ending March 31.

Going forward, live data will only be available in custom reports.

Since last fall when Nielsen proposed the metric change, it argued that live-plus-same-day better reflects the change in how people view TV. On average, 63 percent of playback occurs on the same day a program is recorded and a significant amount of playback occurs within a very short period of time, Nielsen found. Further analysis revealed that the live-plus-same-day metric is a closer surrogate than live to the C3 measure used for national buys.

Allaying fears that live-plus-same-day would be an inflated measure of commercial viewing, a recent Magna Global analysis (of program and commercial ratings for both live and live-plus-same-day data streams) in 21 local people meter markets found that DVR playback may overstate commercial viewing by only about 4 percent. This is far below the swings that normally occur in Nielsen’s audience projections. In more than half the programs analyzed, the live-plus-same-day program ratings were closest to C3.

“The way people view television has changed, and a ratings stream with DVR playback included is much more representative of today’s audience,” said Janice Finkel-Greene, evp director of buying analytics for Magna Global. “Rejecting live-plus-same-day program data stream because it might marginally overstate commercial viewing is a head-in-the-sand approach.”

For a number of technical and methodological reasons, Nielsen was unable to just add the live-plus-same-day metric without eliminating one of the other metrics it reports on the local level, including live-plus-three and live-plus-seven metrics.

While the debate over live-plus-same-day may be over for now, the debate over how Nielsen can account for viewing to commercials on the local level is not. Ultimately, advertisers and agencies would like to see a C3 metric on the local level, one that accounts for viewers to commercials and not just viewers to programs.

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