Nielsen Backs Off Reporting Data On Cord Cutters Because The Cable Industry Prefers Fantasyland
from the Plato's-cave dept
For many years we’ve discussed how the cable industry is in stark denial about cord cutting, insisting at different points that the cord cutter was a mythological beast akin to yeti or unicorn, despite very obvious stats showing they’re a small but growing and very important statistical reality. When the industry wasn’t busy insisting that cord cutters didn’t exist, they were busy trying to argue that they were an irrelevant niche market of uneducated, middle-aged dolts (not that there’s anything wrong with that) living in mom’s basement, even though the data shows that cord cutters tend to be young and highly educated.
As such, it has been fun watching the legacy TV industry (and those that exist and profit comfortably within it) perform 180s when confronted with data that has become less and less “negotiable.” For example, one of cord cutter’s biggest opponents was former Sanford Bernstein analyst Craig Moffett, who spent years insisting to any media outlet who would listen that cord cutters weren’t real, only to recently move to his own firm, where he now readily admits cord cutting is an important trend (you’re to ignore the fact he was not just wrong, but aggressively wrong, for many years).
Also amusing to watch has been TV ratings firm Neilsen, who has an obvious vested interest in keeping TV ecosystem executives happily believing whatever they’d like to believe about the current TV ad market. Nielsen over the years has gone out of their way to proudly proclaim cord cutting was “purely fiction,” yet despite this certainty, the firm only about a year ago announced they would finally begin the process of figuring out how to track viewership on alternative devices (consoles, iPads, smartphones) and services like Netflix and Hulu. Around the same time, Nielsen began manipulating their definitions, calling people who don’t watch TV on a TV “zero TV households” — just so they didn’t have to use the term “cord cutter” and admit what they’d spent years denying.
Fast forward to this week with the news that Nielsen is bowing to broadcaster pressure to delay publicizing data the cable industry may not like. After fielding complaints from NAB, Nielsen is withholding broadband-only household data from the firm’s local TV ratings service “for the time being.” Their explanation:
“In early 2013, the decision to include broadband-only homes in Nielsen’s television universe estimate was made to measure the media behavior of the average U.S. viewer in this fast-changing and evolving technological landscape,” Nielsen Senior Vice President-Insights and Analysis Pat McDonough said in a statement. “This change was made with specific and strategic measurement benchmarks in place as a way to study how this small segment of the vast viewing audience might affect the larger sample. “Based on a thorough evaluation of the viewing patterns in broadband-only homes and industry feedback on the need to maintain stable measurement in local television,” she continued, “we have decided to exclude broadband-only TV homes from local TV measurement and ratings for the time being.”
That’s long-winded code for: “the cable industry wants to remain in fantasyland and our data upset them, so because they pay us we’re allowing them to remain willfully oblivious until they’re better able to acknowledge reality.” There’s been a lot of pressure for Nielsen to modernize their viewing analytics, and pretty clearly those folks will be waiting a little longer. Kind of amusingly, you’d be hard-pressed to find TV ratings operations or analysts that even try to include (genuine) piracy statistics, lest that data further force the cable and broadcast industry to actually pay attention to the real world and changing consumer trends.