September 21, 2023

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Nielsen and TV Networks clash over Amazon data as MRC debates adoption

Nielsen’s take on numbers

Based on last December’s games, the move would have added 8% to 9% to the number of viewers ages two and up counted for the “Thursday Night Football” game alone, not counting pre- and post-game segments. This is well below the 18% to 19% household number the VAB cited for the whole evening’s coverage, Nielsen noted in its response today. The household increase from incorporating Amazon’s data just for the game would be 11%.

Averaging in audience changes from all parts of the broadcast for the full month “is inappropriate, as it masks nuance in different telecast,” Rao wrote. “We assume you were attempting to back into a whole program average impact, but given that the game is nearly all of the program duration, your approach overstates the impact of the shoulder programming. This is misleading.”

Nielsen says networks got a fair chance

At any rate, even 9% is a big increase, and VAB member networks would like a fair chance to see similar gains by incorporating their own first-party data, Cunningham wrote in his letter yesterday. He disputes Nielsen’s contention that VAB member networks have gotten that chance.

“Our members expressed their enthusiasm for that type of potential first-party data solution to Nielsen earlier this year at the Nielsen-hosted Live Sports Measurement Summit that included both Amazon and Google in addition to our multiscreen TV sports publishers,” Cunningham wrote. “A combined ask from TV sports publishers, Amazon and Google on that day was that Nielsen provide all attending publishers/platforms the tech requirements for sharing first-party streaming data; none of our multiscreen TV members have received those yet from Nielsen.”

Nielsen’s Rao disputed that today in his response. Nielsen has been engaging clients including VAB members since as early as 2021 about integrating their first-party streaming data, Rao wrote. After the February summit, Nielsen invited attendees, via a survey, the week of Feb. 13 to join a working group devoted to first-party data standards, he wrote, then shared a document outlining requirements for first-party data integration on March 3 and had another meeting on April 12.

A copy of the March 3 document, said to be attached to the letter Cunningham received, was not provided to the media. A Nielsen spokesman did not immediately respond to a query about who at VAB member networks has been involved in discussions with Nielsen on the data integration.

A person familiar with the matter said executives of four NFL broadcast networks were unaware of those standards or meetings. And in a statement, Cunningham questioned Rao’s characterization of the process.

“It is clear that the first meaningful tops-to-tops meetings Nielsen had with TV’s four NFL publishers about Amazon first-party data-driven changes to NFL currency occurred in the last few days, not months,” Cunningham said in a statement. “The changes Nielsen wants to force into NFL currency next week are greatly favoring a single NFL publisher (Amazon) with single-digit share of live sports programming, through an opaque process that essentially builds a walled garden with favorable fundamentals for Amazon in the NFL, in one of the most competitive, highly valued properties in U.S. marketing. That’s an incredibly bad start of first-party data use in live sports.”  

Contributing: Parker Herren


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