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What the Nielsen Total Audience Report Expansion Means for Local TV

December 4th, 2018   ||    by Oriana Schwindt   ||    No Comments

The Nielsen Total Audience Report has been a mainstay of the TV business for decades now. As an impartial third-party measurement source, Nielsen still plays a vital role within the TV ad ecosystem, and the report has been a trusted indicator of larger trends.

Thanks in part to the Nielsen Total Audience Report, we know linear TV isn’t dead. It’s just declining the way you’d expect in an increasingly on-demand world. Younger viewers are spending more time with devices connected to their TVs. Herein lies the opportunity for buyers and sellers willing to put in the work.

Though the digital and TV worlds may be colliding, they have two entirely different transactional models. Nielsen’s TV ratings are an average minute viewership for an entire program. Digital “viewership” is generally more akin to the TV concept of “reach”—digital viewing metrics focus on the concept of the “view,” which on several online video platforms is any viewing activity that is longer than two or three seconds. Digital viewership data also comes straight from the platform itself. Ad buyers and TV sellers have remarked that this essentially allows digital platforms to grade their own homework.

Buyer dissatisfaction with this method was recently highlighted by a lawsuit alleging that Facebook’s continued errors in calculating certain video metrics amounted to fraud, according to the Wall Street Journal.

To bridge this gap between digital and traditional TV metrics, Nielsen has been working for years on bringing Total Content Ratings, which measure the reach of a piece of programming across all viewing platforms, to the marketplace. The goal was to offer clients digital and traditional ad metrics, and traditional linear and delayed-viewing TV ratings. This is a much more complex task than it sounds, but the first Nielsen Total Audience Report to use its cross-platform set of respondents was recently released.

This came a few months after the company gave a deep dive into its Total Content Ratings to reporters, in which they revealed that half of the 18–34 audience for the premiere episode of ABC’s Roseanne revival streamed the episode, according to Deadline.

That’s good news for local TV. The inclusion of local affiliates in virtual MVPDs and streaming services like CBS All Access is a huge boon to markets that may be more affected by cord-cutters and cord-nevers. It’s also one way to slow down the upward creep of average viewer age. The latest Nielsen Total Audience Report estimated virtual MVPD penetration at 2.7 percent. By the end of 2018, vMVPDs will have 9.2 million subscribers, according to UBS analyst Jon Holudik. The majority of these vMVPDs include local affiliates, who deserve to have their viewing accurately counted.

Capturing the various ways people are watching your content is not just nice to have, or something that only national networks need to worry about. Local stations need to count every pair of eyeballs, and know exactly how to reach them.

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