Nielsen Won’t Use Amazon ‘Thursday Night Football’ Viewership Data (At Least For Now)

Nielsen is putting a new media yardstick out of arm’s reach, for the time being.

Nielsen backed off a plan to incorporate first-party data from Amazon in its study of the audience for the company’s streamcast of “Thursday Night Football.” a move that was opposed by TV networks, putting to rest — at least for the moment — the idea that the measurement giant might utilize inputs from the companies it examines in its national viewership methodology.

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“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,” Nielsen said in a statement Thursday. “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.”

The company had planned to incorporate Amazon’s “TNF” data and its methodology for working with it even went before the Media Ratings Council, an independent body backed by the media and advertising industries that examines companies that provide audience-measurement service last week. But the TV networks savaged the idea and requested that Nielsen hold off on the notion.

Amazon and Nielsen have been discussing such an alliance since earlier this year, after the two sides clashed over two different accountings of streams of last season’s “Thursday Night Football.” Nielsen’s tabulation, long based primarily on the reactions it gleans from viewer panels, discovered an audience that was 18% smaller than the one Amazon found using its understanding of how many devices were streaming its Thursday night feed. The two have worked together to reconcile their efforts.

The VAB, a trade group that represents U.S. TV networks, last week sent a letter to Nielsen demanding that the company halt its work with Amazon. “We see Nielsen’s articulated NFL plans for Amazon (intended to be activated by the Sept. 7th opening of the ‘23/‘24 NFL season) as Nielsen 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,” wrote Sean Cunningham, the group’s CEO.

Yet the networks have been testing similar efforts. Their disparagement of the Nielsen-Amazon tie-up comes after they have spent the past few years trying to get advertisers and Nielsen to accept new audience measures based on data they supply. Paramount Global, NBCUniversal and Warner Bros. Discovery have been particularly vocal about the need to find other measurement technologies as Nielsen moves less quickly than they feel is appropriate to try and count audiences who stream their favorites, rather than watching them at a regular day and time each week via a linear TV network.

Nielsen indicated that it will continue to pursue the idea of utilizing media outlets’ information. “We remain encouraged by the enthusiasm that the MRC TV committee members and our clients have shown for incorporating first-party data into measurement. We are in advanced discussions with major programmers today and anticipate that motivated partners will complete the integration process during the upcoming season,” Nielsen said in a letter to clients Thursday.

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