The ANA, having already reviewed results of a request for information from panel providers, plans to issue a panel pilot proposal by early March, said Nathalie Bordes, the group’s executive VP of measurement for marketers. This is one component of research the group is doing to evaluate new approaches to cross-media measurement of reach and frequency, which also includes pilots with Comscore and VideoAmp. The ANA is working with the World Federation of Advertisers and U.K.’s Incorporated Society of British Advertisers (ISBA) on the effort globally.
“The next workstream that we are really delving deeply into now is the panel,” Bordes said. “We need a good panel that we can use for calibration purposes.” The RFP will aim at inviting specific panel providers “really to provide us a proposal of how they can work with us and bring that system to life.”
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Historically, the Nielsen panel has been used as the basis of TV ratings on which deals get done. But the company is developing Nielsen One, set to begin full operation by late this year, using primarily data from millions of household set-top boxes and smart TV. Its panel still will be used to calibrate that data once Nielsen One is fully operational. Rivals such as VideoAmp and iSpot.tv similarly build their measurement around set-top-boxes or smart TV data, but also use alternative panels from TVision and/or HyphaMetrics to help them model individual and OTA viewing.
Four panel providers targeted
Bordes, without disclosing specifics, said the ANA is likely to reach out to four panel providers. Executives at TVision and HyphaMetrics indicated they’re likely to participate in the pilot. Nielsen declined to comment, but appears likely to be part of the pilot. The fourth player is likely to be Kantar, according people familiar with the matter.
Kantar didn’t confirm it will participate, but issued the following statement: “Kantar’s technology and panels measure audiences in 61 markets around the world. We understand the pain points advertisers and broadcasters are experiencing in the U.S. and their unmet needs for measurement. As you would expect, we are constantly evaluating how our expertise in people-based measurement can address those pain points and meet the needs of the world’s biggest advertising market.”
The statement added that Kantar recently was selected in the U.K. by Origin, the joint industry initiative led by ISBA, as a preferred supplier of a single-source panel to develop a cross-media measurement system.
WPP owns 40% of Kantar following its 2019 divestiture of the rest of the company. And WPP’s GroupM has been working with the ANA as it develops the panel pilot and other aspects of its cross-media measurement initiatives.
Plugging the gaps
“There’s a real need in the market for a solution specifically focused on the personification of viewing data and in cross-media measurement that plugs the gaps we see in the alternate-currency ecosystem,” Bharad Ramesh, executive director for research and investment analytics at GroupM, said in a statement.
“Perhaps a measurement company like Kantar,” he said, which elsewhere around the world has “already developed a currency-grade alternative to Nielsen One and are already running WFA’s Project Origin in the U.K.—could build it in the U.S. market.”
This would involve setting up a panel to supplement gaps in data from set-top-boxes and smart TVs nationally, Ramesh said, but also “has the potential to be built for key local DMAs in the future.”
Current alternative U.S. TV-measurement panels are far smaller than Nielsen’s. TVision has 5,000 households, and HyphaMetrics has 100, compared to more than 41,000 U.S. households for Nielsen. HyphaMetrics, by far the smallest, is set up to measure how individuals in its households in three major U.S. metro areas watch TV across all devices, so it is used differently in modeling than other panels, said founder and CEO Joanna Drews.
NBCU equates Nielsen and TVision
However, in its Measurement Framework Lookbook issued earlier this month, NBCUniveral said only around 30,000 of Nielsen’s households currently are “in-tab” or actively providing data, and of that group, only 10,700 actually have household members actively pushing buttons in a given week indicating exactly who is watching. Given that TVision’s system is set up to passively collect data on who in the household is watching, the NBCU report said it regularly gets person-level data from nearly its entire 5,000-household panel.
“Nielsen and TVision both have relatively the same coverage across markets, and the sample sizes are very close in terms of total size, which won’t make that big of a difference in terms of accuracy for how the industry is using this data to model people,” NBCU said in a statement.
Nielsen takes issue with NBCU’s analysis. “It’s an inaccurate assessment to believe that only a quarter of our national panel households are watching on a given day,” Nielsen said in a statement. “On any given day over 90% of our installed homes contribute to the reported estimates,” Nielsen’s statement said. “We additionally have policies in place with our panelists on what constitutes ‘watching’ to further ensure accuracy.”
Sorting through such widely varying policies will likely be part of what the ANA must consider as it evaluates Nielsen and other panels.
TVision CEO Yan Liu said he welcomes the scrutiny and isn't concerned about the entry of another competitor, such as Kantar. Nielsen competitors have been using TVision data already for Liu as they race to “get as much traction as possible” in the marketplace before Nielsen One launches.
“It’s very difficult to set up a calibration panel in three years,” Liu said. “It’s almost impossible. You need historical data.”
Drews said she isn’t concerned about entry by Kantar or another competitor because HyphaMetrics plays a different role than other panels, basically tracking where and how individuals within its 100 households watch TV.
Crossfire over lawsuits
Nielsen filed federal lawsuits in November and January against TVision, and a single suit in November against HyphaMetrics, alleging patent infringement. Both defendants have sought to dismiss the lawsuits, saying Nielsen failed to cite valid claims.
Drews declined to comment on the lawsuit.
Liu said Nielsen’s lawsuits “really have nothing to do with what we do at all. I guess they kind of understand that, and that’s why they try to make this really complicated.” He noted one of Nielsen’s complaints numbered 220 pages.
“They just tried to stop innovation by suing people,” Liu said. “I do admit they have more lawyers, and so that’s their strength.”
“Nielsen has done the hard work and made the investments in continually innovating its panel measurement technology, making its representative panel data the basis of the currency on which the broadcast advertising industry trades,” Nielsen said in a statement. “We fully support and encourage innovation in media measurement and in panels, specifically. But we will not support businesses appropriating our intellectual property without authorization.”
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