Nielsen sets meeting with clients: but do the advertisers really want convergence measurement?

Categories: TV Business

Written By

October 8th, 2009

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Since the news of the "consortium to challenge Nielsen that really isn't",  I've been writing that it was largely just blowing off steam to cope with a changing business landscape that isn't pretty, as well as to put some pressure on Nielsen.   It seems to have achieved the latter result.

I wasn't at all surprised last month to see this public communication from Sara Erichson who is president of media client services at Nielsen touting Nielsen's plans for convergence measurement of TV and online viewing.

Now according to Broadcasting & Cables Claire Atkinson,  Erhichson has sent a later to 75 of its bigger advertising and TV clients inviting them to a meeting next Friday October 16 to move the ball forward citing the similar themes Erichson publicly wrote about last month:

The letter, penned by Sara Erichson, Nielsen president, media client services, North America, invites clients to “a special client meeting in New York City to discuss ‘TV Everywhere’, ‘OnDemand Online’ and similar initiatives and their implications for television audience measurement.”  Erichson notes “these initiatives are very compatible with Nielsen’s television ratings system; that is, audiences viewing television programs online could be included in Nielsen’s national TV ratings, including C3.”

As I've written before, Nielsen is in the unpleasant position of getting a lot of heat for things that aren't entirely its fault.  Nielsen has some real measurement challenges, and for what it charges subscribers, they need to be addressed.  But the changes to the way people watch TV from DVR to online to on their iPhones; I see these as being gut-wrenching for the TV networks, not because of measurement issues, but because they haven't figured out how to make money on them.

Advertisers don't want to pay for DVR viewers who skip ads.  The online streaming sites have far, far fewer commercial spots than on television.  That's a gap that costs the networks a lot of money.  Same for On Demand viewing where most shows have very few commercials and they are mostly network promotions.  (Kudos to AMC, "Mad Men" has been running the exact same ad spots with On Demand as ran with the TV airing).    But it's not entirely Nielsen's fault that advertisers don't want to pay for DVR viewers, and its not Nielsen's fault TV networks aren't putting more ads in the online and on demand streams.  And even if they add more ads, if they are not the exact same ads as on TV, why does it matter?

I understand why the TV Networks want convergence numbers, but I'm not clear on why advertisers care.   I think if I was an ad buyer I would want to keep the TV and online metrics separate, especially since it's not like if you buy an ad during Heroes it makes its way into NBC.com/Hulu and On Demand.  I get wanting the metrics around who is watching online, and on TV, but how does it benefit the  advertisers to have the results combined?

Nielsen seems to be trying to give its clients what they are asking for, and I do understand that its biggest clients are the TV networks.   Again, I understand why they want convergence metrics: they want to be able to say "No, it wasn't only 5.5 million people who watched Heroes, it was 8.5 million!"

But with so many of those additional views being DVR skippers and online watchers who aren't seeing the TV ads, why does that matter to the advertisers?

Any advertisers/ ad buyers/ agency people out there who can set me straight,  please feel free to do so!

 
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