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
    hij (profile), 28 Dec 2018 @ 6:08am

    More money for the rest of us!

    So that means they will be lowering prices to share the price savings with the rest of us. That is how efficient markets work. Right?

    Also, looking forward to the time when I can not purchase access to a large number of media outlets rather than not purchasing from just the one.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. icon
    MDT (profile), 28 Dec 2018 @ 7:37am

    Karma's a...

    ...witch (or some other word that rhymes with it).

    This is what happens when you forget who your actual customers are. Nielsen's customers have never really been Cable Operators. Their customers are content creators, not content deliverers. Forget who your customers are, and your business will inevitably suffer.

    I don't really see any way for them to become relevant at this point. If they'd tried to work with streaming services when they were first starting up, they might have gotten a foot in the door and offered some service to them.

    But now, streaming services already know how many views they get for every show, and how their audience watches (binging, mini-binges, individual). Why would they need Nielsen? And why would content creators need Nielsen? They can probably get a pretty good idea of what's popular using their subscribers on their streaming service. Especially since they'll have a good idea of the demographics already. You can get a decent extrapolation on the general viewer audience based on a sample set (this is how Nielsen works now), so if you've got your own sample set...

    PS : Expect to see some Nielsen numbers folks getting job offers from various streaming service providers as they ramp up internal diagnostics.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Dec 2018 @ 8:45am

    Nielsen actually has a digital ad tracking division that tracks information for online advertisers. So while their TV division may be having issues, I wouldn't be surprised if they do just fine.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. icon
    Ninja (profile), 28 Dec 2018 @ 10:19am

    So they are starting to realize cord cutting is a thing with some years delay and then promptly failing to adapt by fragmenting the market with tons of individual services that will make people go back to pirating. Who would have predicted it?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. icon
    MDT (profile), 28 Dec 2018 @ 11:02am

    Re: Who would have predicted it?

    Pretty much anyone with a functioning reason center in their brain.

    In other words, anyone but cable executives, politicians, flat Earthers, climate deniers, religious extremists, and about half of all celebrities.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Dec 2018 @ 12:13pm

    Ha Ha Ha

    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:

    As if I'm going to spend more money time and energy on a bunch of different services .
    Be Smart and stay with the proven services like Netflix and Hulu cause we the people sure aren't going to pay for any extra streaming services for your exclusive crap .
    All it will do is make me update my kodi box .

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Erik, 28 Dec 2018 @ 12:39pm

    Someone needs help with remedial counting

    "audiences are increasingly able to stream their TV favorites in on-demand fashion, making the task of counting them exponentially more difficult."

    Pardon? I can stream on your locked down, privacy invading, mini surveillance app and this makes counting more difficult as opposed to Neilson throwing a dart to guess which multiplier to use to extrapolate viewer numbers?

    Not only can they count views more easily than ever before, they can count your views and know exactly what you watch, when and probably from where.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. icon
    nerdrage (profile), 28 Dec 2018 @ 2:06pm

    Re: More money for the rest of us!

    Maybe CBS will lower the fees they charge advertisers but Nielsens isn't about people paying networks directly. It's about getting advertisers to subsidize free TV by selling the audience to the advertisers. The audience has always paid in the sense they are the product, not the customer.

    What will actually happen is, the ads will move to Facebook and Google, where all the viewers under 35 have gone anyway. That's the audience the advertisers want to chase by offering free TV or something that's like TV but probably more like cat videos. Oh well, it's free. If you want anything good, pay for it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. 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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. icon
    nerdrage (profile), 28 Dec 2018 @ 2:16pm

    Re:

    Well, "they" is not a monolithic entity that can say "hey there's too many of us, you and that other guy, go away."

    No, they all think they will grab the brass ring. And they don't know that they can't yet. Some of them, like Disney, almost certainly can. Some, like Apple and AT&T, have a shot. Some, like CBS and Comcast, are screwed but corporations don't like to admit they are screwed because then the shareholders wonder why they are paying the big bucks to those idiots in the executive suite who let Netflix steal their business.

    The losers can only be dragged out of this feet first. So we wait and see.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. icon
    nerdrage (profile), 28 Dec 2018 @ 2:18pm

    Re: Ha Ha Ha

    Yeah everyone's doing that. Disney, Netflix, Amazon. Maybe AT&T. Maybe look at whatever Apple has going. Hulu will be owned 100% by Disney or die. Comcast and CBS will be driven out of the content biz. Comcast will become just an ISP and CBS will merge with Viacom, struggle for a while and get sold off to one of the winners I mentioned earlier.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Somewhere Out There, 28 Dec 2018 @ 2:19pm

    This is odd because

    A couple of years ago when I filled out a Nielsen Ratings questionnaire for TV it very much included streaming.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. icon
    nerdrage (profile), 28 Dec 2018 @ 2:20pm

    Re: Someone needs help with remedial counting

    That sentence means, Netflix knows exactly what you are doing and when you pause a show to go to the bathroom, and when you start it back up, etc. Every little thing you do, they see.

    But Netflix isn't going to let Nielsens know any of this. Why should they? So it's a lot more difficult - for Nielsens. They're basically screwed now.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. icon
    nerdrage (profile), 28 Dec 2018 @ 2:22pm

    Re: This is odd because

    Think about that: a questionnaire for streaming? If Netflix wants to know what you watch, when, why, how - they just download the data from their banks of computers. They don't need you to tell them a damn thing. They can see your behavior. They know what you are doing better than you know.

    The fact that Nielsens has to rely on a friggen questionnaire (hahahahaha) reveals just how screwed they are.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    Somewhere Out There, 28 Dec 2018 @ 2:36pm

    Re: Re: This is odd because

    Fair point. I do recall (I had been very ill at the time so wasn't watching anything) wondering why content owners weren't collecting the information directly from the distributors.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    Dan Under, 28 Dec 2018 @ 2:59pm

    Re: Re: More money for the rest of us!

    Or you can block ads with https://pi-hole.net/

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    nerdrage, 31 Dec 2018 @ 11:53am

    Re: Re: Re: More money for the rest of us!

    So if everyone blocks ads, then the ad-supported platforms dry up and blow away. Which in the case of Facebook, is just fine with me. Then we all pay the content creators/distributors directly and forget about the ads, which are getting less and less effective all the time.

    Advertisers are responding by increasing other venues like events and outdoors. They'll find places that can't be blocked and stop bothering us online.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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