The Empire Strikes Back

On August 24th, The Nielsen Company will celebrate its centennial, making it far and away the most experienced measurement platform in all media.  Many veteran observers, and a few senior executives, will barely be in a celebratory mood when that occurs, and privately, many of them would have expressed surprise that the company was indeed going to make it to that milestone given what has transpired this decade alone.

Nielsen has come under both public and private scrutiny with the loss of its MRC accredidation and numerous clients citing its inefficiencies and what they perceive as outdated technology and underwhelming sample size that was exacerbated by pandemic-related inabilities to justify sample inconsistencies that many content providers and marketers assert have contributed to significant audience losses and campaign underdeliveries.   There’s a lot that’s been already written about that, especially in this space, you’re open to deep diving if you wish or need further context.

And earlier this week, with a new year, a new CES and the dawn of a pre-upfront season that will lead to much more business-like smaller, intenser spring presentations than the pre-pandemic past revelry produced, an awful lot of news about worthy competitors has arisen.  Videoamp’s deal with Warner Discovery made news Wednesday, and yesterday more details about a broadcast-centric enhancement from Verance Corporation was released on TV NewsCheck from its CEO (perhaps with a smidgen of assistance from a certain ghostwriter; just sayin’–link below).

So it was perhaps fortituous timing that amidst all of these other releases Nielsen finally announced that after quite a number of false starts, they will indeed be going live next week with the first phase of its long-planned Nielsen One enhancements.   As Alyssa Boyle of AdExchanger reported:

On Wednesday, Nielsen announced that Nielsen ONE Ads, the first module of its cross-screen measurement platform Nielsen ONE, will be available starting January 11.

Nielsen ONE sits at the heart of Nielsen’s strategy for competing with the many alternative measurement currency providers that rushed the stage after Nielsen lost its accreditation from the Media Rating Council for local and national TV ratings in late 2021.

And the explosion of AVOD last year has only made audience-based measurement more urgent for Nielsen’s business, said Kim Gilberti, Nielsen’s SVP of product management, during a press briefing on Tuesday.

The Nielsen ONE Ads dashboard will allow advertisers to track deduped audience reach and frequency counts, including a percentage of target audience reach, across screens by campaign based on Nielsen’s panel data and its ID resolution system, which it launched in early 2021. This data will also be available for buying and selling.

Boyle further recounted the collateral damage that the delays and behind-the-scenes machinations that ultimately resulted in the sale of  the company and the gutting of many i longtime executives in 2022 has hurt Nielsen’s standing as the gold standard for measurement.  But, in fairness, she also reported, via Gilberti, that amidst the tumult Nielsen was making strides with at least this phase of its evolutio

Although Nielsen ONE Ads is squarely focused on campaign measurement for now, Gilberti said, Nielsen intends to add more and different types of data to the Nielsen ONE platform over time.

Nielsen will also provide linear campaign reporting at a second-by-second level, rather than just by the minute, so as to make its linear metrics more comparable with digital and streaming.

Gilberti refers to this second-by-second data as “impact data” because it’s for research and planning purposes only, and isn’t available for buying and selling yet.

And, because it’s been collecting panel data for 100 years, Nielsen has an edge over alt currencies, Gilberti argued, because it can help account for co-viewing by personifying an impression.

The objective of Nielsen ONE is ultimately to “associate TV viewing with people, not just devices,” she said.

And, just perhaps, those are two of Nielsen’s stronger suits.  When you’ve been doing something for a long, long time you’ve had the chance to learn from your missteps.   One time-worn standard which Nielsen utliized when it pivoted to peoplemeter measurement 45 years ago was “households don’t watch television, people do”.  People ultimately buy products, too.  For all the bells and whistles that streamers and first party panels can offer in more inclusive measurement, there continues to be a remarkable deficiency in accurately identifying exactly WHO is consuming content in a household.  For services that were reliant upon subscriptions and ARPU, that detail isn’t necessarily all that crucial  But, indeed, with even the likes of Netflix and Disney+ now embracing AVOD, it is much more important now to have some concept of personification.

When Nielsen moved the TV industry toward the persons metrics back then, it was a process that was met with initial reservations and several false starts.  Over time, they were able to work through the issues, establish new norms and ultimately regained industry trust.  It was a far less competitive environment then, and, frankly, those that were in charge were primarily seasoned executives who had the benefit of up and coming talent open to soaking up their expertise and helping them evolve.  That is not necesarily the case these days, particularly in light of the recent changes in many media and tech companies.

But as noted in previous musings this week, Nielsen is beginning to bring in some new and experienced talent to help them meet their significant challenges, and at least at the moment appear to be focused on solutions rather than posturing.  It’s a long way from where they were last year, when the new logo itself was the biggest news they had to offer.

They, along with many others who bid farewell to top talent last year, could still use a few more adults in the room to help steer this dialogue and next steps toward positive outcomes.  Hint:  A whole lot of such adults will be on hand at the end of the month in San Diego at the Media Insights Conference, and if you were to click on the link below, you could see first-hand who they (we) are and learn a whole lot more than any press release could offer.  Use my discount code and you’ll even save enough for a couple of sunset mojitos.

It’s easy to snark that these moves and announcements are coming only as the competition makes their moves.  As we’ve also previously mused, competition ultimately is a good thing for business, let along life itself.  Getting a run for its money may be exactly the kick in the keester Nielsen needed to finally start to get them going on what their next hundred years might look like.

Like it or not, they’re still the incumbent.  May the force be with them.

Until next time….

Broadcast Could Gain From Enhancing Tech – TV News Check

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