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Local Television Measurement Enters the 21st Century

In 2018 Nielsen made a number of enhancements to their local television measurement in an effort to provide more consistent and accurate measurement of local television. It can be overwhelming to keep track of all the changes that they continue to roll out which might leave one wondering, “weren’t they already doing that?” In an effort to simplify these changes, below is a quick guide that details the highlights and explains what they mean for both viewers and advertisers.

  • The retirement of diaries. Believe it or not, Nielsen was still using paper diaries for television measurement in almost 140 markets until July 2018. This meant that agencies and advertisers were relying on viewers to accurately remember and write down what they watched. This information was then used to inform media spends in more than 65% of the 210 Nielsen DMAs. The use of paper diaries also meant that high profile events prior to 2019, such as March Madness, were not measured at all in these markets if they didn’t fall within the four “sweeps” periods when the diaries were recorded (Feb, May, July, and Nov). This game-changing enhancement allowed for the launch of year-round electronic measurement in those markets. Advertisers now have access to ratings that are more accurate in addition to all encompassing.
  • Incorporating set-top box data in Set Meter and Code Reader markets. Media buyers are finally able to see the set-top box data from their cable and satellite partners reflected in television ratings. Rather than rely solely on the data pulled from the Nielsen devices in the 31 Set Top Meter and 14 Code Reader markets, cable and satellite return path data is now incorporated into the measurement. This data is applied in conjunction with National people meter data and additional 3rd party data to better assign demographics to viewing that was previously only available on the household level. Nielsen is currently identifying and correcting imperfections in the data and will be rolling out a set of enhancements and new features for these markets, including incorporating Comcast as a data provider. Unfortunately, due to the time it takes for Nielsen to “scrub” the data from the providers, this functionality is not yet available in local people meter markets where overnight reporting is the priority.
  • Utilizing portable people meters. The technology of the portable people meter, which can be likened to a beeper-type device to detect what measured broadcast media the wearer is exposed to, has been around for some time now. It was originally introduced right here in Philadelphia over a decade ago to aid in radio rating measurement and is now being incorporated on the television side in the 25 Local People Meter DMAs and 19 of the Set Top Meter markets. This means that viewing outside of the home, like your Cousin Dave’s Game of Thrones premier party or Sunday Night Football at the local sports bar, can now be included in the reported ratings. In 2019, Nielsen is still refining the PPM measurement for TV in LPM markets and expects to provide launch and impact data schedules for the final improvements soon.
  • Advanced audience segments on a local level. Let’s face it, in a world where we can use digital media to reach grandmas that attended a body-building competition in the last 30 days and then confirm that they visited a client’s fitness facility after being served an ad, the targeting capabilities of traditional television have remained pretty stagnant. There is far less accountability in the broadcast space and advertisers are demanding more granular data. While age and gender continue to be the primary way to buy and sell linear television, Nielsen is moving into the audience-based buying space by offering consumer purchase, attitudinal, and lifestyle based data. The offering is much more advanced on the National side, but locally, Nielsen can fuse consumer targets from Scarborough with data from the LPM panel in the top 25 markets to better inform channel selection and optimize campaigns. These audience segments can be extended to digital and cross-platform media. This capability is expected to be rolled out to an additional 19 markets sometime before 3Q 2019.

While these are just a sampling of the updates Nielsen has been unveiling over the past year, they are likely the most impactful.These measurement enhancements represent a response from Nielsen on advertiser and agency’s need for stronger data that is more accurate, more current, more insightful, and more accountable than what has been the standard for the past several decades.

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