Is there a risk that rival providers take meaningful market share?
There's always that risk. We're never guaranteed a position as the currency of choice. The reason I want an open discussion is I want people to be eyes wide open. Some things can sound great, but were they validated by real people so that you made sure you weren't systemically biased against a racial group or a certain population or a certain geography? Were you truly comparable across streaming and broadcast? Are you really using effective techniques to deal with all the things we‘ve tried to deal with?
I certainly think that the world needs a currency. I think we're still in the best position to earn that.
There’s an implication in the letter that networks are looking to grade their own homework by bringing in these rivals. But Comscore, VideoAmp and others are tools already used by agencies and clients to optimize, to measure ROI. So if they’re willing to trust them for that, why should they be concerned about using them as currency in transactions?
First of all, I think it is important to separate currency measurement from analytics. If you look at any stable marketplace—the debt markets, consumer credit markets, insurance markets—you’ve got S&P, Moody's, Equifax. These ratings companies are foundational ground truths, and I think there needs to be a foundational ground truth of how many people saw my ad and how many times a day. It's the way brands are built. I'd hate to see the industry give that up.
Nielsen has come under criticism recently—and really for a long time—over measurement of minority audiences. Are you making improvements that get you to the panel size needed to meet those objections?
Yes. Some of that was old criticism, and I think there's been a lot of work. We have an external advisory council that I meet with every quarter. We were very transparent with policymakers and advertisers on how we're doing that, and we're doubling down to make sure that happens. And I defy somebody to be able to do that without real-world validation. Big data has a lot of bias in it as we all know, and we see every day in [artificial intelligence] and semantic search and things that don't have real-world validation.
The panel is one component. I think we're also getting better at other data sources and putting things together. I actually think you need to validate for every county for every ethnic group and every race, and we do that and we're going to continue to do that.
One of your competitors believes that, if you look at all TV measurement, north of 10% of deals today are already done on a currency other than Nielsen. Do you think that’s accurate?
It could be. But this is, fundamentally, people choosing to use analytics above the currency. I think this core currency measurement and measuring everybody is still a ground truth that everybody else builds on. So be careful what you're wishing for here because it's the ground truth that’s very important.
I've heard “be careful what you're wishing for” applied to networks that have been very critical of Nielsen and pushing for alternatives. Is there a risk that they upset the applecart in ways they don't foresee and aren't really that positive for them?
Possibly. This is why we have the open letter. I think there needs to be a more full and strategic conversation. This is not something just about the transactions of 2021 and 2022.
Every situation is different, but I think the networks are undergoing a fundamental change well beyond panel size. In fact, it's almost a diversion from the fundamental issue, which is how are you going to work in a world where most people don't have a cable subscription?
Is all the controversy of late something that could affect revenue or contract renewals? Does it make people more reluctant to sign a three-year renewal when there’s this much uncertainty?
I won’t say it’s a good thing, because it’s not. What I would say though is that accreditation is a Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval. It's not in the contracts. People will have to say if there’s a better way to transact. What I want to do is create the better way at Nielsen.
But I think people still need us. The upfront that just happened was written in Nielsen currency. So, I think we have to be strong. I think we have to be confident. And I think we have to be bold and move forward. To me, the risk is not moving forward. The risk is just allowing the narrative to be established by others, and have a narrative that sustains a legacy model longer as opposed to one that advances to a model that reflects the consumer today and tomorrow.
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