Nielsen’s national TV ratings gets accreditation back after 19-month suspension

The Media Ratings Council is restoring accreditation for Nielsen’s national TV ratings after a 19-month suspension. The move comes on the eve of the 2023-24 upfronts (the period advertisers can buy inventory before a season begins). It doesn’t apply to the company’s local ratings, which remain unaccredited.

“As the industry demands measurement that is trusted, independent and founded on real viewing from real people, we continue to support the MRC guidelines that set the standard for quality, audited measurement,” Karthik Rao, CEO, Audience Measurement at Nielsen, said in a statement. “It’s our daily mission to maintain our methodologies at the highest standard so that our clients can trade with confidence well into the future.”

Why we care. The suspension was a good thing for marketers in many ways. For nearly all of the broadcast era, Nielsen had what was essentially a monopoly on measuring ratings. For much of that time, both TV networks and advertisers complained about the accuracy of the data. Improving the quality of those numbers means brands are less likely to be paying for audience they aren’t getting.

Also, it has opened the door to competitors. NBCUniversal, Paramount and Warner Bros. Discovery have all announced they are working with other data providers, including Comscore Inc. and startups such as VideoAmp, and EDO. More competition means better service.

Dig deeper: Nielsen announces first module for cross-screen audience measurement platform

What happened. The MRC suspended Nielsen’s accreditation in September 2021 for two reasons. First, an investigation by the council found the company undercounted TV viewers during the pandemic because technicians were not able to get into panelists’ homes to fix devices. Second, Nielsen reported a software error had caused it to undercount out-of-home viewership for nearly six months.

Bad timing. The suspension came amidst an ongoing drop in TV viewership which made Nielsen’s ratings less valuable. Since 2011 major network broadcast ratings have dropped more than 80%, according to SpoilerTV. Further, the cord-cutting trend continues apace. The share of Americans who say they watch television via cable or satellite has plunged from 76% in 2015 to 56% in 2021, according to a Pew survey.

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