People/Biz

VAB asks Media Rating Council to suspend Nielsen accreditation

An industry group representing A+E Networks, ViacomCBS, Comcast, NBCUniversal, Fox and other major networks and media brands is calling for a suspension of the Media Rating Council’s (MRC) accreditation of ...
July 22, 2021

An industry group representing A+E Networks, ViacomCBS, Comcast, NBCUniversal, Fox and other major networks and media brands is calling for a suspension of the Media Rating Council’s (MRC) accreditation of Nielsen.

The Video Advertising Bureau (VAB) alleged Nielsen’s COVID-period conduct presented “multiple major and persistent violations” to the MRC’s minimum standards in a 10-page document delivered to the non-profit organization yesterday (July 21).

In May 2020, an audit by the MRC found that Nielsen undercounted total usage of television by adults 18 to 49 by as much as 6% during the month of February.

Now, more than a year later, VAB says Nielsen has violated five minimum standards, with “the damage done to their largest subscriber clients still creating material negative impact into July 2021.”

The five allegedly violated standards include a lapse of business critical processes in the wake of COVID-19 — namely Nielsen’s year-long suspension of in-home servicing; a failure to alert subscribers to its decisions for relaxing and changing national panel restrictions and methodologies; flawed quality control in the areas of sample selection, sample implementation, data collection and data editing; the issuing of ratings reports without advanced disclosure of procedural changes; and adjusted procedures that led to the doubling (or more) of Zero tune-in homes.

VAB’s document goes further to state that Nielsen’s panel is still in need of “significant repair.”

“Without intervention, every 2021 output from Nielsen that uses the 2021 national panel as a base of insight, trending, truth or factoring will be compromised and/or inaccurate on arrival. This is a fact that the full $60+ billion-dollar TV advertising marketplace needs to be alerted to.”

In a statement to Realscreen, a Nielsen spokesperson said: “We are fully committed to returning to pre-COVID operations and are working closely with and through the MRC to address any outstanding issues and requests and are committed to their process concerning accreditation.”

A representative from the MRC, meanwhile, told Realscreen: “The VAB and its members represent an important and highly valued constituency within MRC’s membership, and we continue to take their concerns related to the Nielsen National Television Service very seriously.

“MRC has been actively pursuing the Nielsen issues, both with our TV Committee as a whole, as well as directly with Nielsen’s management, and we plan to meet with our TV Committee again in the near future to assess where the situation with Nielsen’s National Service currently stands.

“It’s important to note that MRC conducts an independent accreditation process, based on CPA audits and independent compliance assessments of our standards, and our current assessment of the Nielsen National Television Service remains in process. During this time, the Service remains accredited.

We will keep the marketplace informed of any subsequent actions as the situation warrants.”

Photo: Sean Cunningham, CEO and president, VAB

About The Author
Jillian Morgan is the Associate Editor at Realscreen with a background in journalism and digital marketing. She joined the publication in 2019 after serving as the assistant editor to trade publications HPAC and On-Site. With a bachelor of journalism from the University of King's College in Halifax, she also works as a freelance writer and fact-checker.

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