Nielsen Outlines Improvement Plans


On the heels of a snafu regarding digital-cable-audience data, Nielsen Media Research Friday issued an action plan for overall improvements that includes accelerating efforts to measure on-demand TV viewing and creating a $2.5 million fund for methodological research on TV-audience measurement.

Nielsen president and CEO Susan Whiting, in an eight-page letter to clients, outlined plans for the fund and a variety of other steps the ratings firm is taking as part of an “action plan” to address industry concerns about ratings.

“I want you to know that we’ve heard from our clients loud and clear when they tell us they want more from Nielsen,” Whiting said in the letter. “Our goals are the same as yours -- fast, accurate, accessible ratings data -- and this action plan demonstrates our commitment to those goals.”

For one, Whiting said, Nielsen will come back with a plan for the measurement of video-on-demand viewing in 90 days. That’s a result of clients having “expressed a sense of urgency regarding measurement of VOD viewing in our syndicated panels,” according to Whiting.

“While clients are still studying the right business model for VOD, we understand that including the viewing in our panels is an important element of helping clients to develop optimal VOD-business models,” she said. “Our ‘A/P Meter,’ along with client encoding, prepares us to measure VOD, but there are many additional details that need to be worked out.”

Nielsen said it will also manage the $2.5 million research-and-development fund it is creating in cooperation with the industry by asking a small group of clients from different industry segments to “to serve with us on a steering committee that will direct the spending over the course of one year,” according to Whiting.

Regarding digital-video recorders, she said clients want three streams of data: live ratings representing live viewing; same-day ratings, representing live viewing plus some same-day playback; and live-plus ratings, or live plus seven days of playback.

In response to those requests, Nielsen is delaying the inclusion of homes with DVRs in the “National People Meter” sample until next January, when all three streams of data will be available.

“DVRs have the potential to significantly change television viewing, and national clients have told us they need same-day ratings, in addition to the two other streams, to support they way they do business,” Whiting said.

Earlier this week, it was revealed that Nielsen had mistakenly mixed up the universes for “digital cable with pay” and “digital cable without pay” from November-January for one of the qualitative reports it supplies to clients, “MarketBreaks.”

The company notified its customers about the situation and said it would provide corrected data.

Don’t Count Us Out -- a group that has been vocally opposed to Nielsen’s new “Local People Meters” -- immediately issued a statement regarding the $2.5 million fund.

“Nielsen’s announcement is a response to pressure from the Don’t Count Us Out Coalition and industry leaders who know that the company’s ratings system is not working,” the coalition’s executive director, Cynthia Jasso-Rotunno, said in a prepared statement. “Real reform and oversight is needed in the television-ratings system.”

In her missive, Whiting listed some initiatives Nielsen is taking to improve response rates for its LPMs, such as “investing millions of dollars in increasing the field staff and their training in each of the LPM markets.”

In its diary markets, Nielsen will “oversample” to increase African-American and Hispanic households in order “to gain better representation,” she added.