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How Are Gross Rating Points (GRPs) Evolving in the Media Industry?

January 29th, 2019   ||    by Charlene Weisler

Gross rating points, or GRPs, are standard television measurements used in ad buying and selling to ensure the delivery of an advertiser’s contract. This measurement is based on age and gender, requiring a universe estimate to calculate. How will GRPs evolve with the industry moving toward addressable advertising and audience fragmentation?

Evolving Gross Rating Points

The industry has relied on these metrics for many years, and it takes hefty investment to change systems based on long-established protocols. Lorne Brown, CEO at Operative, said in a MediaPost interview, “Agencies don’t have the capital structures necessary to dismantle their systems that are based on Nielsen audience measurement.” Yet, it is clear that people are viewing TV in very different ways than just a few years ago, so there may be room for evolved forms of measurement.

The GRP universe estimate calculation is prone to variation in a multi-platform world. “In television, the universe estimate changes every year,” noted Brad Adgate, a media consultant. “But if you move toward audience-based buying, like weekend moviegoers, the universe changes every day.” It might be possible to form agreed-upon segments and universes that change frequently, but that will take time.

It is evident that, “GRPs have to evolve,” said Mitch Oscar, a director at U.S. International Media, “because all advanced television platforms are starting to transact on impressions whether it’s optimized linear, TV everywhere, ad supported VOD, social video networks, programmatic and addressable television.”

Some Solutions

According to Ed Papazian, president at Media Dynamics, Inc., some companies are applying STB (set-top box) ratings or first-party data indexed to standard Nielsen ratings as a fix. But, he noted, applying set box tuning data to Nielsen viewer data can lead to “built-in error margin.”

Locally, the move from Nielsen diary to meter ratings improved measurement but “still suffer[ed] from very small rating panels compared to their national counterpart.” Also, local market ratings are based on a quarter hour viewing of any content and “not average commercial minute ratings where homes that zap ads are not included, as in nationally.”


No matter what is eventually used for cross-platform measurement, there are bigger issues to address. As Radha Subramanyam, chief research and analytics officer at CBS, states, “GRPs and impressions are acceptable metrics. But what’s more important is that the spot is truly viewable and appears in a brand-safe environment.”

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