Perhaps a bigger question is whether losing overnight ratings really matters, particularly if it costs a lot of money to deliver them. Most linear TV deals today are done using C3 or C7 ratings, which cover average viewership across a program’s commercial minutes both live and in the subsequent three or seven days of DVR playback. Networks have largely moved away from reporting overnight numbers publicly for programs. And many connected TV deals are written based on customized addressable audiences, where such aggregate numbers are largely irrelevant, said Mitch Oscar, founder of media and marketing consultancy HocusFocus.
Overnight ratings get the most attention for major sports events such as the Super Bowl, presidential debates and election coverage. Former president Donald Trump, for one, was known for tracking overnight ratings of his appearances closely.
“Overnight ratings are less and less important, other than for tentpole events, because you have ACR and set-top box data,” Oscar said. “There’s technical capability across all the CTV platforms to get very accurate information about really the people who have the behavioral characteristics that you’re looking for,” he said. That’s more important than knowing an aggregate number of viewers for the Super Bowl.
Even before Nielsen One, “overnights” for last year’s Super Bowl didn’t come until two days after the event, as Nielsen reported processing issues on the way to reporting 96.4 million total viewers across platforms.
Register for Ad Age Next: Health & Wellness at AdAge.com/NextWellness.
Questions about the future of overnight ratings come, however, as NBCUniversal this week has made a point of delivering in-depth overnight data from Nielsen rival iSpot.tv about audiences for its Winter Olympics coverage.
Nielsen TV ratings for that coverage have been disappointing, with Friday’s opening ceremonies down 43% from the 2018 opening. But iSpot data covering all NBC’s linear, connected TV and digital offerings puts things in a far better light for NBCU -- and iSpot was able and willing to crunch numbers derived largely from ACR data overnight. Ad ratings from iSpot are focused on linear TV, however, and data across all screens is taking 48 hours.
On Wednesday night, NBCU reported iSpot.tv data showing NBC had a 24% lighter ad load and delivered 134% more impressions per unit than the average for the other three broadcast networks combined. Those numbers were similar, if slightly down, from similar figures for the prior four nights of Olympics coverage.
NBCU also reported engagement with its ads during the games, as measured by iSpot, was 10% higher than industry averages, based on second-by-second iSpot viewing data showing a 98% completion rate for the networks Olympics programming on Tuesday.
Get the latest Ad Age Super Bowl 2022 news here.
NBCU cited iSpot data showing its Olympics coverage delivered four times the ad impressions of the next best program. It also noted that the top performing ad pod of the day came at 9:34 p.m. eastern standard time, when American-born skier Eileen Gu, representing China, competed, bringing in 12.3 million viewers.
It’s a degree of detail that clearly pleases NBCU executives, who are in an extensive process of evaluating Nielsen ratings alternatives.
“We’re moving away from talking about only our programming audiences and moving toward including the ads as well,” said Kelly Abcarian, executive VP of measurement and impact of NBCU. “And we’re doing so on an overnight speed with powerful ad insights within 24 hours, and ad ratings within 48 hours across all screens.”
“We’ve been delivering overnight insights on the ads themselves to advertisers for many, many years now,” said Sean Muller, founder and CEO of iSpot.tv. “That’s why we have such a big following in the marketplace and a big client base, especially with those advertisers that are investing heavily in tentpole events, such as the Olympics, because they don’t want to wait until the games are over before they get really any insights.”