Monday, October 20, 2014

Report: Nielsen Feels The Heat Of Competition

Nielsen is the 800-pound gorilla of audience measurement, and holds a virtual monoploy over the ratings game. Nielsen calculates the ratings from a “survey” it conducts every day. Several thousand homes across the U.S. volunteer to have their sets wired into Nielsen’s computer system. The data collected from those people — scientists call it “a sample” — is crunched. It’s all meant to represent the viewing habits of more than 100 million.

Industry insiders admit they don’t believe the ratings are always accurate, but note Nielsen’s data is “the currency of the realm.”

And, according to the NY Daily News' Don Kaplan it was — right up until last week. That’s when Nielsen officials admitted to a rare screw-up. They hadn’t noticed that a computer computer bug has fouled up the ratings... since last March.

Strangely, in a conference call with reporters to explain how badly things got fouled up, a red-faced Nielsen executive took the time to slam Rentrak. That’s a far smaller competitor that has been making serious inroads on Nielsen’s turf.

Rentrak never lets “the facts get in the way of a good press release,” Nielsen’s global president Steve Hasker says.

So much for contrition, writes Kaplan.

Rentrak officials note that their measurment service works differently than Nielsen. Over at Rentrak, they tabulate actual viewers, drawing information directly from about 30 million television sets. The data is delivered to Rentrak by various cable and satellite providers it’s partnered with.

“While there’s an element of competition here, we think there’s room for both of us,” says Bruce Goerlich, Rentrak’s chief research officer.

Through a series of complex deals with other companies that collect various forms of data — like vehicle registrations, for example — Rentrak can cook up more exotic ratings than Nielsen, he says.

“So instead of getting data for just ‘adults 18-49’ we can offer data on people who have bought a foreign luxury car within the last five years.”

That kind of information, Goerlich says, is far more relevant for advertisers.

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