The move follows an Aug. 30 MRC meeting on the issue described by people familiar with the matter as "contentious." The meeting did not end in a vote, because, as one participant said, “it appeared it would have been voted down” based on objections, not just by representatives of networks that have been highly critical of Nielsen, but also from buy-side participants. A spokesman for the MRC declined to comment.
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Nielsen has been at odds with networks over the move, with the Video Advertising Bureau CEO Sean Cunningham and Nielsen Audience Measurement CEO Karthik Rao last week exchanging open letters. Cunningham accused Nielsen of favoring Amazon with the move while making no effort to give VAB member networks a chance to incorporate their own streaming data into measurement. Rao shot back with his own letter saying networks had been given specifications and a chance to work on incorporating their first-party data since March, when the first of two outlines of specifications went out.
Outlines of those specifications obtained this week by Ad Age suggest Nielsen’s process involved extensive direct sharing of (anonymized) data from network servers, though MRC CEO George Ivie has described the Amazon-Nielsen process as involving Amazon sharing summary data with Nielsen. Some people familiar with the matter said Nielsen appeared to be applying different standards to networks with the specifications than it’s applying to Amazon, which a Nielsen spokesman disputed.
“The specs for the integration of first-party data into our system is the same for all publishers,” the spokesman said.
As of yesterday, the results of last week’s meeting had left some in the industry puzzled about how Nielsen would handle things and whether it might force the new Amazon methodology into currency used for this year’s “TNF” games, which kick-off tonight. That won’t happen now.
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Debate shifts to big data audit
The move is part of the stakes in another pending MRC audit of Nielsen’s big data measurement, one piece of which was considered Aug. 31, with the remainder scheduled to be reviewed and possibly voted on Sept. 20, according to people familiar with the matter. The Amazon first-party methodology now becomes part of that consideration too.
“Nielsen is committed to evolving and modernizing its approach to audience measurement and believes the inclusion of first-party data is a significant step towards that future,” according to a company statement. “Such evolution, taking place in a moment of change for many media organizations, needs to happen in accordance with the MRC’s auditing and accreditation process in order to allow the marketplace to transact with trust. While encouraged by the enthusiasm for this progress, we have taken seriously the feedback and questions raised about this change. We plan to address these issues with a proper action plan.”
Nielsen has made its big data measurement, which now will incorporate Amazon data, available for trading this year for participants who opt in, even prior to MRC accreditation. But so far there appear to be few takers on the buy side for Nielsen’s own “alternative currency,” according to people familiar with the matter.
So whether that or Amazon's first-party data become part of trading in scatter or next year’s upfronts could depend on what happens later this month. By making the first-party data part of its big data product, Nielsen potentially sweetens the pot for networks that have been critical of its moves but want their own streaming data to inform currency measurement.
One agency executive called hypocrisy on networks that have criticized Nielsen’s big data efforts and slow progress, then cried foul on the measurement company for moving fast on Amazon’s first-party data, but then also want their own streaming data brought into the measurement mix as fast as possible.
It’s difficult to explain networks’ contention that Nielsen didn’t offer them a chance to incorporate their data alongside Nielsen’s outlining of steps it took to do so, this executive said, adding that the focus of some networks on aggregating their streaming data via a new Joint Industry Committee may have distracted them.
Nielsen still hasn’t opted into participation in the JIC’s certification process for that effort. And Paramount, whose CBS network is a major player in NFL rights, has threatened not to share streaming data with any measurement company that doesn’t participate in it.