CBS Eyes Ditching Nielsen As Streaming, Cord Cutting Change The Game

from the adapt-or-perish dept

For years, we've noted how popular TV ratings firm Nielsen has turned a bit of a blind eye to cord cutting and the Internet video revolution, on one hand declaring that the idea of cord cutting was "pure fiction," while on the other hand admitting it wasn't actually bothering to track TV viewing on mobile devices. It's not surprising; Nielsen's bread and butter is paid for by traditional cable executives, and really, who wants to take the time to pull all those collective heads of out of the sand to inform them that their precious pay TV cash cow is dying?

Eventually, the cord cutting trend became too big to ignore, forcing Nielsen to change its tune and start acknowledging the very real trend (though they called it "zero TV households" instead of cordcutters). Broadcasters (especially those hardest hit by cord cutting) didn't much like that, and began bullying the stat firm when it showed data that didn't jive with the view a foot below ground. While Nielsen slowly improved its methodologies, it would occassionally back off on certain data collection and reporting changes if the cable and broadcast industry complained loudly enough.

Ironically, this fealty to wishful thinking may not pay dividends for Nielsen. Nearly every broadcasters in your cable lineup is expected to launch their own streaming service by 2022. Many of these companies (like CBS) are now considering ditching Nielsen because, they claim, it's charging too much money for a user tracking system that hasn't adapted for the streaming era:

"At issue is a long-running complaint from TV networks that Nielsen isn’t measuring the many different audiences for their programming as well as it should. As smartphones, mobile tablets and broadband-connected TV’s gain more consumer acceptance, audiences are increasingly able to stream their TV favorites in on-demand fashion, making the task of counting them exponentially more difficult. TV networks have long based their advertising rates on Nielsen’s measure of linear TV audiences, which have slipped as consumers embraced Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime and other streaming and on-demand options.

In this environment, TV networks believe Nielsen’s overnight ratings are no longer as reliable a barometer of viewership as they once were.

Go figure. It's ironic that Nielsen often went out of its way to show cable and broadcast executives a narrative they desperately wanted to believe, only to find itself (potentially) booted by broadcasters who no longer see Nielsen's measurement systems as an accurate barometer of customer viewing habits in the cord cutting era.

Filed Under: cord cutting, nielsen ratings, streaming, tv, tv ratings
Companies: cbs, nielsen

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  1. icon
    nerdrage (profile), 28 Dec 2018 @ 2:12pm

    Re: Karma's a...

    Nielsens customers are anyone who values an independent third party that can be trusted to be basically honest about who is watching ads and how much. So, their customers have been content distributors (broadcast networks) and advertisers. Both parties want a referee that can say "this ad rate is fair" rather than have the two of them bicker endlessly about it.

    Content creators do benefit from this system because it allows a process by which they will be paid for their efforts. I wouldn't say they've ever been a direct customer of Nielsens at all.

    Nielsens never had a prayer with non-ad-supported services like Netflix, who have perfect views of who is watching what, when and how. Netflix doesn't need Nielsens to provide its independent third party function because there's nobody Netflix answers to, for specifics on who is viewing shows and how much. You might have noticed Netflix doesn't even reveal this info - they have no motive to.

    It's possible that content creators might value Nielsens now, in a world where they are very much at a disadvantage vs Netflix or other ad-free streaming platforms. If somebody creates a successful show, Netflix might lead them to believe it's not at all successful. Just barely hanging in there, really. But we're nice guys, we'll do a season two if you knock down your price 20%.

    And the content creator has no recourse because there's nobody to dispute Netflix's figures. And the number of successful streaming platforms will not be large because subscribers are getting fed up at their being too many and will stop at just 2 or 3 really big ones. And those few really big ones will be the only ones standing at the end of the day.

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