The Media Rating Council (MRC) voted on Wednesday (Sept. 1) to suspend its accreditation of Nielsen’s National Television service and Local Markets services.
The MRC’s suspension of Nielsen’s Local People Meter and Set Meter Markets services removes its current accreditation hiatus status. The voted changes will come into effect in mid-September.
Nielsen had requested the MRC temporarily halt accreditation of its National TV ratings service in August after The Video Advertising Bureau (VAB) — an industry group representing major networks and media brands like A+E Networks, ViacomCBS, Comcast, NBCUniversal, Fox — called on the MRC to suspend Nielsen’s accreditation. The VAB did this after alleging the firm’s COVID-period conduct presented “multiple major and persistent violations” to the MRC’s minimum standards.
Nielsen had previously said in November 2020 that it is in the process of transforming its National TV products through integrating big data sources, and is committed to delivering impact data beginning in January 2022.
Accreditation suspensions are imposed by the MRC when an accredited service has material standards, non-compliance or operational issues that have an adverse effect on the service. The MRC said Nielsen was informed of the possibility of a suspension on Aug. 12 for the National Television service, and on Aug. 20 for the Local Market services.
The MRC’s board chose to end the hiatus status that had existed for the Local Market services since January 2021 after Nielsen confirmed it intended to add broadband-only homes to its local panels in October. The board said it decided to suspend the accreditation for the Local Markets based on continuing issues with the Local Market services and the board’s assessment of Nielsen’s ability to appropriately integrate broadband-only viewing at a local level.
“While we are disappointed that the situation has come to this, we believe these are the proper actions for the MRC to take at this time,” said George W. Ivie, executive director and CEO of the MRC, in a statement.
“MRC stands committed in our willingness to work with Nielsen toward the goal of being able to restore accreditation to these important services at the earliest possible time, and it is our hope that Nielsen likewise will continue to engage with MRC and its clients in pursuit of that goal.”
A Nielsen spokesperson said the company is disappointed with the outcome, but the suspension won’t impact the usability of their data. They added that Nielsen remains committed to the audit process and will work with the MRC on resolving the suspension.
In a letter to clients on Wednesday, Nielsen CEO David Kenny said the MRC had issued the suspension because Nielsen’s panel size and maintenance needs to return to target levels, their business continuity and recovery processes must be strengthened and tested, the process for recording and communicating changes in methods must be more transparent and clear, and because of Nielsen’s decision to include broadband-only homes in local measurement.
In response, Kenny said Nielsen is accelerating panel recovery efforts, and have added systems to allow for greater remote recruiting and monitoring during future emergencies similar to the COVID-19 pandemic. He said Nielsen also created a subcommittee with the MRC to share details of methodological or procedural changes, and will work with the MRC to refine and audit estimates for weighting and sample controls to ensure broadband-only, cable and over-the-air homes are all properly represented on their panel.
Sean Cunningham, president and CEO of the Video Advertising Bureau said the MRC’s decision should be seen by Nielsen as a “loud change-or-die challenge.”
“All measurement and currency providers with big future aspirations in the video advertising sector must take the 2021 mandate for real transparency, full and deep audience capture, urgent innovation and rigorous verification as mission-critical for them all.” Cunningham said in a statement.
“Advertisers should expect to see more innovation in the next three years in video measurement and currency than what was achieved in the last 30 years, time has officially expired on friction and frustration.”