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Nielsen Loses Industry Backing, Will Be Audited

Photo by Sigmund Umao via Unsplash

Nielsen Loses Industry Backing, Will Be Audited

By Movieguide® Staff

The popular research firm Nielsen, responsible for most of the data on streaming and TV during the pandemic, announced that they would press forward despite the Media Rating Council withdrawing their support.

“We believe hiatus is the best course of action at this time and will allow us to focus on innovating our core products, continuing to deliver data that the industry can rely on and ultimately creating a better media future for the entire industry,” Nielsen said in a statement.

The lack of MRC backing means that TV networks will no longer use Nielsen data. However, Variety reported that the numbers will still have some influence, despite no stamp of approval from MRC.

Variety reported that MRC would also audit Nielsen:

Nielsen’s maneuver is the latest in a long joust between the company and the TV industry. Last month, the VAB, the trade group representing the ad-sales efforts of the TV networks, called for Nielsen’s accreditation to be revoked by the MRC, citing Nielsen’s diminished ability to count viewership during the coronavirus pandemic. Formed at the behest of the U.S. government in the wake of TV’s quiz-show scandals of the 1950s, the MRC conducts audits of companies that measure media to determine whether they are in compliance with industry standards. The MRC had been in the midst of investigating the networks’ claims, with CEO George Ivie telling Variety that their concerns “are something we take very seriously, but we have an independent process to execute.”

“We can confirm that we have received an accreditation hiatus request from Nielsen for their National TV service. We expect to have more to say on this matter later today,” said David Gunzerath, senior vice president and associate director of the Media Rating Council, in a statement Thursday.

TV networks first expressed their concerns after Nielsen changed protocols during the pandemic.

Movieguide® previously reported:

Major TV networks called out Nielsen, the company responsible for auditing their audiences, claiming that Nielsen should submit to a third-party audit themselves.

Nielsen was responsible for counting audience viewership for television during the pandemic for networks like CBS, ABC and NBC. According to Variety, it is seen as the authority on TV ratings and the “bedrock of advertising deals for TV programs.”

The VAB, which represents the TV networks, said Ernst and Young should audit Nielsen. The major networks’ central frustration is that Nielsen’s system undercounted viewership in 2020 as the world went into lockdown.

“I am conveying to you in the strongest possible terms the VAB’s profound dissatisfaction and concerns with Nielsen’s handling of our industry’s months-long urging for rightsized remedies to shortfalls in the company’s COVID period TV usage and measurement data,” Sean Cunningham, the CEO of the VAB wrote in a letter to David Kenny, the CEO of Nielsen.

Cunningham suggested that a third-party, independent auditor “will be tasked to verify the accuracy of Nielsen’s outcomes data during the March 2020 – March 2021 time period. As part of the independent ‘outcomes’ audit process, the auditor will have the ability, autonomy, and authority to create a recommendation that could include market-facing numerical adjustment factors.”