Nielsen Is Preparing for Its Total Content Ratings to Go Public This Week

TV execs are eager to start capitalizing on the data

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A year and a half after Nielsen first unveiled its Total Audience Measurement platform, the company is preparing for the public debut of a key Total Audience metric: Total Content Ratings (TCR), which measure unduplicated video consumption across linear and digital platforms and devices. The ratings will give networks and buyers a fuller picture of how their shows are being watched across all devices, and help determine how best to monetize that consumption.

Beginning on March 1, TCR will have a “limited commercial release,” said Jessica Hogue, svp of product leadership for Nielsen. Individual publishers can choose to share their own data externally, with media, agencies or for other business purposes, but will not be able to release any data from competitors. Nielsen will then make that same information available to agencies.

(Nielsen had initially planned to make TCR metrics available to all Nielsen clients on March 1, but modified its plans after several media companies, led by NBCUniversal’s chairman of advertising sales and client partnerships, Linda Yaccarino, asked Nielsen to put the brakes on the rollout.)

“Every presentation that everybody gives everywhere starts with, ‘Consumers have more choice than ever today and viewing is fragmenting,’” said Glenn Enoch, svp of audience insights at Nielsen. “Our clients want to have a picture of what exactly that means. We know that people are still consuming these programs, but where are they doing it?”

TV execs are eager to start capitalizing on the data from TCR and Nielsen’s Total Audience platform. “Fully measuring and monetizing the value of every single viewer represents terrific upside for us,” CBS Corp. chairman and CEO Leslie Moonves said on an earnings call earlier this month. “Nielsen is doing a better job. … There is no question when we talk to advertisers, everybody is looking at a more complete picture and that only means more viewers and more revenue for us.”

For now, however, buyers see TCR as a planning tool, not a buying one. “It’s a step forward, and any granular measurement beyond what we have now is useful,” said David Cohen, president, North America, Magna Global. “Is it a currency? It isn’t. Is it going to help from a planning and contextual perspective? Yes, it will.”

But Nielsen says as clients get up to speed with the new data set and start to identify the new viewing patterns that emerge when all multiplatform viewing is factored in, the metrics will help programmers and buyers alike. “This is all going to take time to work through,” said Enoch. “But we’re at the starting gate.”

This story first appeared in the Feb. 27, 2017, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.

@jasonlynch Jason Lynch is TV Editor at Adweek, overseeing trends, technology, personalities and programming across broadcast, cable and streaming video.