Nielsen, Under Pressure From TV Broadcasters, Delays Plan to Use Amazon Data In NFL Ratings

Nielsen is walking back — but not abandoning — a plan to use first-party streaming data for live streaming telecasts. s

The decision will most immediately affect Thursday Night Football on Amazon’s Prime Video. Nielsen had been planning to incorporate some data from Amazon with its national panel ratings for the primetime NFL games this season (the first of which is scheduled for Sept. 14). The process hasn’t been fully approved, however, by the Media Rating Council, an industry regulatory board that accredits measurement companies.

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Until that process is complete, Nielsen says, it will stay away from using first-party streaming data in its national TV ratings — though it will be included in the company’s “Big Data in National” product, which clients can also subscribe to and, as of this month, use to transact business.

“As Nielsen works to modernize media measurement by integrating census-level data sets, including first-party data, we remain committed to adhering to the MRC’s measurement standards. Our aim is to ensure the process with which we introduce new ways of measuring audiences is inclusive of client feedback and held to the highest standards,” the company said in a statement. “For now, Nielsen’s panel-only National TV service will remain the currency of record. First-party data will be included in Big Data in National measurement figures, which are available to all customers separately.”

Nielsen’s initial move to include the first-party streaming data for Thursday Night Football drew criticism from the Video Advertising Bureau, a trade group that includes several other NFL broadcasters. In a letter to Nielsen, the VAB charged that the company was “clearly forcing changes into a highly valued, highly visible, ultra-competitive multi-billion-dollar sports content arena; changes that will greatly benefit one Nielsen client (Amazon) while negatively impacting multiple Nielsen clients (all remainder NFL programmers, distributors & ad sellers).” The group argued that the change would inflate Amazon’s audience figures — the streamer’s own metrics were often substantially higher than Nielsen’s last season — without conferring the same advantage on other NFL broadcasts.

The ratings service replied that it offered all clients the chance to incorporate first-party data for live streaming as well, but Amazon was the only one to say yes right away.

Nielsen told clients that it is continuing to move ahead with plans to roll first-party data into its national ratings and is working with the MRC on the details. It has held the first of two review meetings with the council’s TV committee and says it will roll out the first-party integration after addressing any concerns the committee might have. The company also expects other clients to take part in the integration.

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