It also appears as if Nielsen hopes to be more competitive with comScore TV which measures local TV using set-top-boxes.
It's not readily apparent, however, that Nielsen's new approach in place of paper diaries or set-top-boxes is an improvement over either.
Nielsen did not specify it would be using People Meters in these markets. People Meters are the industry standard for measuring TV viewing both nationally and locally. From them, comes the vast data sets used as currency for negotiating the buying and selling of advertising.
If Nielsen is not going to use the sanctioned People Meters to measure people viewing in these 140 markets, a number of questions must be addressed: "Does Nielsen plan to use meters that do not measure people viewing?" and "Does Nielsen plan to forego direct measurement of people viewing, by relying on the highly controversial Viewer Assignment methodology?"
If so, these smaller markets would be replacing one methodology that failed audit (paper diaries) with another methodology that did not pass audit (Viewer Assignment). The Media Rating Council oversees the audits.
It could be argued that any kind of meter may be better than set-top-boxes. Set-top-boxes do have a disadvantage--they do not address homes that view over-the-air TV using an antenna. Although approximately 75% of homes in these markets watch their shows using some kind of pay-TV service (i.e. cable, satellite, telco), about 25% watch over-the-air. In that sense, having any type of measurement approach to capture these homes is in fact a positive situation.
Nielsen is a good company and could help its thousands of clients by being more transparent, as there seems to be many critical questions that are currently unanswered about Nielsen's actual measurement plan for these smaller markets.
While answering these questions, if Nielsen is truly interested in pursuing a plan to improve measurement in these 140 markets, it would be helpful for the firm to also announce when it expects to roll out the new plan and subsequent service. More than a decade ago, Nielsen announced similar plans to replace its paper diaries in these same markets.
Craig Jaffe | Founder | Craig Jaffe Research 360
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Craig Jaffe Research 360 is a research and analytics consultancy that advises how consumer trends, behavioral shifts and attitudinal dynamics can be leveraged and monetized. The consultancy is hired to perform Consumer Insights, Analytics, Ad Sales Research, and Program Research. It utilizes a variety of resources -- such as Nielsen, MRI, comScore, and others -- and employs data science, research, and analytic techniques while working with media and marketing companies operating in the television, digital, and social marketplaces. Craig Jaffe Research 360 helps television networks and websites increase ad sales and audiences, and helps advertising and media agencies activate consumer purchase behavior.