|Nielsen Media Research President-CEO Susan D. Whiting said the research company is marshalling its resources to track TV-like video content across digital platforms.
In explaining why the company decided to pull out of its five-year partnership with Arbitron to measure TV and radio audiences using only the Arbitron portable people meter, Ms. Whiting said her clients told her again and again that their focus was learning about audiences for video, wherever it might be played.
"The main reason [for pulling out] is where TV is going,” she said. “We see it moving onscreen and outside of the home. We were going to have to have multiple initiatives for measuring TV." Indeed, last week Nielsen laid out its “follow the video” strategy to clients in Orlando, Fla.
Responds to Nielsen critics
Ms. Whiting, who was interviewed by Advertising Age Editor Scott Donaton, also responded to Nielsen critics who say the organization moves too slowly. "I don't think that's a fair criticism now,” she said. “We are moving quickly. Part of the middleman role is every time we try to move forward there are different points of view on how to do that. Whether that be using electronic measurement or commercial ratings, or technology or whether we should be measuring TV out of the home and on other devices. Our goal is to provide the information about our audiences and our clients with enough time to figure into the whole planning and buying process."
She added that Nielsen did not make changes to its measurement data or new information streams at the beginning of the year. Changes are made around the main planning and buying cycles, she said. "We get just as much push back for slowing down a change as well as moving forward."
When asked to weigh in on the debate over DVR ratings and whether advertisers should have to pay extra for the additional viewers watching shows in playback, Ms. Whiting sidestepped the issue. “I don't think it’s about the presentation of information,” she said. “It’s about how it’s going to be used in the negotiation. That's a question to the buyers and sellers.”
She said everyone is learning about the impact of DVR ratings together. "It will take until June before there are enough households caught up." By the summer, the DVR sample will be more representative of the national DVR universe, which is around 10% of U.S. households. Ms. Whiting said Nielsen would be ready to measure broadband video audiences online by the end of the year.
Instant poll illustrates problems
Advertisers and their agencies took part in an instant poll at the discussion, and the results illustrated some of the headaches that face Nielsen. When asked about their interest in having commercial ratings readily and easily available, 83% said they were “very interested.” That figure dropped considerably when asked whether they'd like commercial ratings to form the currency for ad rates. Only 44% said they were “very interested.” And 40% said they were “somewhat interested.”
And as for why Nielsen still conducts paper diaries, Ms. Whiting said the use of electronic meters doesn’t always make economic sense. "We measure 210 markets and in 40 markets there are fewer than 100,000 people. The economics need to be appropriate." In some of those regions, Nielsen is testing a meter with battery storage than panelists can return to Nielsen with their TV viewing habits.