Earlier this year Nielsen changed the way it handled DVR viewing so that if a show were watched multiple times on DVR, the multiple views would be counted and ultimately included in any gross ratings reports. Now Nielsen has alerted its customers that those DVR viewing numbers may have been inflated due to a processing glitch that delivered “incorrect data for time shifted streams” since January 31, according to a report from MediaPost. MediaPost speculates it might add up to millions in advertising “makegoods.”
Nielsen said it became aware of the problem when clients “inquired about elevated average frequency levels” for the time-shifted viewing data, indicating that the glitch may have over-inflated TV audience estimates.
The only opportunity where I ever got to see numbers from the old system and the new system involved fan favorite Fringe, whose Live+SD ratings fared a tenth of an adults 18-49 ratings point better in the new system than the old. But in one system duplicate DVR viewing was counted and in another it wasn’t, so that wasn’t a big surprise. I wouldn’t come to the conclusion that the DVR numbers have been vastly overstated (there’s absolutely no chance that’s the case), but the tiniest bit of inflation across all of TV still adds up.
Somehow though, this has the feel of advertisers saying “What? Why are we paying for that duplicate DVR viewing, we don’t want to pay for that!”