The Adult In This Room Might Just Be An Elephant

Amidst all the bigger picture tumult of discord among rank and file and the alarmingly tone-deaf tech genuises who resort to distractions such as “coincidental” tree-trimmings and false flag press releases immediately refuted by both those that actually saw their offers, last week there was one small item in the more niggly world that I still contend I’m most informed about that should have warranted more immediate musing.

Reported the ever-intrepid Jon Lafayette on NEXTTV.COM:

Comcast said it signed a multi-year data license renewal with Nielsen that will expand the ratings firm’s access to return-path data about TV usage from millions of cable subscribers’ homes.

Nielsen will increase its use of Comcast data in its Nielsen One measurement system and broaden its use for local-TV measurement in the 94 markets the two companies share.

And as MediaPost Daily’s equally nuanced Joe Mandese added, there’s at least a couple of reasons why both the timing and the parties involved are notable:

One is that it is a tacit vote of confidence coming at a time when Comcast — especially its NBCUniversal division — has been among the big TV-centric media organizations backing multiple, alternative currencies to compete with Nielsen in the advertising marketplace.

The other is that it comes at a time when Nielsen has seen an erosion in the representativeness of the Big Data sources that are a vital component of its new Nielsen One service that is poised to replace its legacy panel-based measurement service as its default advertising marketplace currency.  

In recent years, due to the deprecation of cookies, consumer identity trackers and various privacy policies and regulations, some of those sources — especially social media giant Meta — have become less representative of the population they were intended to be a proxy for.

With a footprint of nearly 45 million subscriber households, Comcast’s return-path data is among the most indelible and representative sources of consumer media usage data and is a vital component of Nielsen One for both national and local audience-measurement services.

“We are delighted to extend our strategic partnership with Comcast allowing us to continue to embrace the power of big data for our services both locally across nearly 100 markets and nationally with addressable measurement,” Nielsen Audience Measurement CEO Karthik Rao explains in a statement announcing the renewal .

I’ve frequently observed that NBCU’s extremely vocal disdain for Nielsen was driven by executives who have some checkered histories with them, either as a former employee or as someone whose own goals have been hampered by Nielsen’s struggles to deploy Nielsen One into a marketplace desperate for more inculsive measurement.   These executives were only tangentially involved with local markets–both those where Comcast owns television stations and those in whcih they operate MVPDs.  But as any seasoned media observer or stock analyst will tell you, there’s far more direct profit earned from local TV than national networks, and certainly, streamers.  And it just so happens that at the top of the NBCU management team now are the likes of Mike Cavanagh, who comes from the Comcast side of the company.  And he’s well aware of what’s going on, or not, in the world of measurement.

As is a trusted ally of mine who pointed out amidst all of this, as I observed that the former Nielsen executive who was championing the diversification of embracing other data resources now has new bosses, that I should perhaps take a look at the trajectory of one of Nielsen’s more trusted competitors.  I received this surreptitious text:

You should take a closer look at the Comscore collapse.  From what I’ve read on my own, the preferred stock is sucking the compay dry.  Have you seen the stock price.  Industry is mute.  Between you and me, wonder if (name redacted) was sent to the kids’ table…

Well, I know my way around investor sites enough to do that.  And on the day I received that text, Comscore’s value was a whopping $0.63, down nearly -70% from its year-ago price. Yesterday, it rose a notch to $0.72, but that’s still a decline of two-thirds.  And that’s for a service that has made headway in the local measurement world, particularly with larger station groups that compete with Comcast and NBCU, not to mention has been one of the leaders in reporting box office data on a weekend when it seems that, at least for one glorious weekend, the world actually wanted to go to the movies.

Perhaps some more practical people now running Comcast may have taken a look at this, contrasted Comscore’s trajectory with their own–one that actually saw it close +2% above its own YAGO level, at more than 60 TIMES Comscore’s level– and perhaps quietly reminded their internal saber-rattler that it wouldn’t be the dumbest idea to at least try and work a bit more closely with the old school vanguard?

Maybe it’s mere coincidence.  Or not,  Regardless, it wasn’t a bad week for Nielsen.  So may I add my own parochial plea while they’re on a little bit of a roll:

There’s about 175,000 or so extremely smart people who are spending an awful lot of time on picket lines in black and blue t-shirts in Los Angeles and New York this summer rather than in far nicer clothes at FYC events.  They are so desperate for accurate data that for a while they embraced the ludicrousy of analytics that champion intent rather than consumption, and were laughed out of the room by the adults that are trying to control them like misbeaving children.  They deserve to be treated a lot better.  And Nielsen, y’all could still use a lot more good news than just this little item was able to generate.

You are more than willing to offer your data to people and organizations who will pay for them.  At the moment, at least, SAG-AFTRA and the WGA have access to some funds, and some top-level membership that could always find a shekel or two to help fund some more.  And Lord knows, there’s PLENTY of qualified people who have already lost their jobs (hand raised) that you’ve dealt with in the past that are more than willing to help them analyze that, and facilitate your entry into these incremental revenue streams.

You’re looking out for your investors, Nielsen.  Your new owners put $16B on the table.  You seem to have at least one major competitor at least grazing the ropes, if not yet falling through them.

Why not pull back the curtain on Nielsen One just a bit, license these unions some sample data, bring a few of us in to help parse it, and perhaps provide some REAL ammunition to this much more publicly-faced battle.  Data that even those trying to break these unions can’t immediately refute, since they have worked with and continue to reap both corporate and personal benefits from it?

Maybe that’s a little too forward or wishful thinking to believe you’re immediately going to embrace such a radical thought?  But let me tell you this.  The amount of goodwill and positive inpact you’d make by at least trying to be an adult in this room could be dramatic.    And an awful lot of good people who currently hate your guts might be turned around just a tad if you did.

Trust me, I know THAT feeling.

So at least consider this musing at face value.  Because we know in any zoo, not far from the elephants are the bulls and the bears.

Until next time…

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