Nets Nix Nielsen’s Ad Ratings

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The list of cable networks declining to participate in Nielsen Media Research’s new commercial-ratings service, which will track the viewership of national TV ads, is growing.

So far, MTV Networks, Turner Broadcasting System, ESPN and NBC Universal’s cable networks -- which include USA Network, Sci Fi Channel and Bravo -- have decided not to take part in the system, which will start delivering data Dec. 11.

“Until they are accurate for everyone and accessible for all, we are opting out,” said Colleen Fahey-Rush, executive vice president of MTVN research.

Jack Wakshlag, Turner’s chief research officer, notified Nielsen of the programmer’s decision in a letter Tuesday.

"This note is to inform you that Turner and all of its networks will opt out of being included in the evaluative commercial-minute rating tape you plan on issuing beginning in December,” Wakshlag wrote.

The Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau also shot out an e-mail to its members Tuesday advising them not to participate in the commercial-ratings system at this juncture, according to Sean Cunningham, the group’s president. He believes a majority of his members will heed the CAB’s advice and not take part in the ad-spot ratings.

Turner’s stable includes TNT, TBS, CNN, Cartoon Network, Court TV and CNN Headline News.

“We will not consider opting in until such time as you treat cable and broadcast networks equally for local avails and are satisfied that you are accurately capturing commercial occurrences,” Wakshlag told Nielsen. “Note that we are finding new Monitor Plus errors for ads that have run on our networks. The system is just not ready, and I will not devote company resources to looking at faulty data.”

Wakshlag added that he was “distressed” that Nielsen is releasing data that aren’t ready, “even as ‘evaluative,’” and he urged the ratings company to reconsider.

Once Turner is convinced that the commercial-viewership data is accurate, the company will be willing to look at it with its agency and advertiser partners, according to the programmer.

In a memo to its clients last Wednesday, Nielsen said it will label all data for the 2006-07 season as evaluation data for average commercial-minute viewing.

“Clients who wish to be on the file from its inception need to inform their Nielsen Media Research representative by Nov. 1, 2006, that they wish to opt in,” the memo said. “As the year progresses, clients may request to be added to the file on an ongoing basis.”

The CAB met last Thursday with 15 cable-network research chiefs to discuss Nielsen’s memo, according to Cunningham.

“Right now, we’re telling people we believe very strongly that now is not the time to opt in,” he said. “Now is the time to opt out and put our energies into working through these issues with Nielsen … as opposed to analyzing flawed data. We’re pushing as hard as we can to get the data right and get it right within a good time frame.”

Nielsen is “working very diligently to address all of the concerns that have been raised and we expect to address them completely,” spokesman Gary Holmes said.

He added that some cable companies, which he declined to identify, have said they plan to participate in the commercial-ratings system, as have some broadcasters.

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