Nielsen, Facing Scrutiny For Measurement, Sets Shift To “Impressions-First” System As Broadband-Only Homes Enter Mix In 2022


Nielsen is adopting a way of transacting advertising buying and selling that is favored by many top local TV station groups.

Impressions-based buying and selling of advertising will be the new focus, as broadband-only households get set to be added to the statistical mix in January 2022. The change follows a period of pointed criticism of Nielsen over its measurement approach, and the withdrawal of a notable watchdog group’s endorsement of the company’s methods.

Many large local station groups and trade organizations have pushed for impressions-based buying and selling in local markets. Centering on impressions and costs-per-thousand, or CPMs, is a departure from instead target rating points (TRPs) or cost-per-points (CPPs), which long formed the foundation of local broadcast media.

The move to an impressions-based currency will deliver “a more complete, precise and representative audience measurement,” Nielsen said in its announcement. It also is a key step as Nielsen prepares to roll out its comprehensive Nielsen ONE system across local, national, and digital platforms. Nielsen ONE is being positioned as a response to the boom in streaming. It is aiming to deliver a single, unified picture of viewing.

The inclusion of broadband-only homes will help the industry move toward trading on impressions. Impressions represent all viewers regardless of platform—which is especially important given the significant and growing penetration of BBO homes in local markets.

Nielsen had previously planned an October 2021 implementation of the broadband-only figures, but pushed it back to January “in response to industry requests,” the announcement said. The new timing will enable Nielsen to seek auditing and review of its data by the Media Rating Council. The same watchdog body faulted Nielsen over the summer for a number of its actions, a vote of no-confidence that galvanized a building mistrust in Nielsen numbers. Adding broadband homes, Nielsen said, will increase reporting sample sizes significantly and capture impressions that may be missing, especially for sports and OTT.

Nielsen is committed to measuring all audiences and the complete video consumption across the local marketplace,” Nielsen CEO David Kenny said. “Impressions are the great equalizer across all screens, programs, listeners and viewers. Nielsen’s move to prioritize reporting impressions will help standardize the way it measures ads and content, enabling greater comparability across National, Local and Digital and is in line with Nielsen’s initiative to drive comparable metrics which are foundational to Nielsen ONE.”

No. 1 local station owners Nexstar Media Group spoke out in support of Nielsen’s initiative.

“We believe the move to impressions and the integration of BBO homes into local measurement metrics is critical to making sure that every viewer is counted,” Nexstar CEO Perry Sook said. “It also enables buyers and sellers to make comparisons across all video across platforms, gives them the most complete view of audience consumption and behavior, and facilitates automated buying.”

“Broadcasters have known for years that our content is being viewed inside and outside the home on many devices and services,” said Jordan Wertlieb, president of Hearst Television.  “This move to impression-focused selling is something that will not only allow the most-watched content to get the full credit it deserves, but will also allow our clients to truly see the unique value proposition we offer:  the best environment with the largest reach.”

“Agencies and advertisers are eager for Nielsen to incorporate BBO homes into local TV samples beginning January 2022,” said Bernie Shimkus, VP, Director of Research & Consumer Insights, Harmelin Media. “Over the years, the number of BBO homes has more than tripled in the U.S. from about 3% in 2015 and now accounts for at least 20% of local TV homes.”

Kathy Doyle, EVP, Managing Director, Local Investment at ad agency giant MAGNA Global, said the company supported the move. “In moving forward to a more data informed approach whereby we target more representative and inclusive audiences, impressions are absolutely the core building block that we must start with as an industry.”

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