The Media Rating Council officially suspended accreditation for Nielsen’s National Television service on Wednesday following months of controversy about the currency that millions of dollars of advertising are bought and sold on. While expected, the vote by the MRC Board of Directors means Nielsen’s national TV ratings are no longer certified by an independent third party that ensures the service is valid, reliable and effective.
The move is a slap in the face to the measurement giant, which had asked that the rigorous accreditation process be put on hiatus while it worked to develop the Nielsen One multiplatform measurement product it intends to roll out in fourth quarter 2022.
In a double whammy, the MRC on Wednesday also removed the current accreditation hiatus status from Nielsen’s Local People Meter and Set Meter Markets services, and suspended the accreditation for these products.
MRC accreditation has long been viewed as an important third party stamp of approval for a measurement service that helps enhance clients’ confidence in the currency. An accreditation suspension essentially means that the service in question has been documented to have “material standards non-compliance or operational issues that are deemed to have exerted an adverse effect on the service,” the MRC says.
The ratings watchdog formally informed Nielsen of the possibility of a suspension action on Aug. 12 for the National Television service, and on Aug. 20 for the Local Market services. Accreditation for the local services had been on hiatus since January 2021. On Aug. 17 Nielsen informed MRC that it intended to add Broadband-Only (BBO) homes to its local panels in October 2021. The MRC already had issues with the Local Market services and after the Board’s assessment of Nielsen’s ability to appropriately integrate BBO viewing at a local market level it suspended the accreditation for the Local Markets as well.
MRC: ‘Proper Actions’ For This Time
In a statement, MRC Executive Director and CEO George Ivie expressed hope that Nielsen would work with the organization to regain compliance as soon as possible. “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,” Ivie said in a statement. “MRC’s Board of Directors, which represents an extremely broad range of industry constituencies, and includes advertisers, agencies, and media companies of all types, is strongly unified in its positions on these matters. 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.”
Nielsen has been under fire for months over shortcomings for both its national and local services. On July 21st, TV trade group the Video Advertising Bureau requested MRC suspend the accreditation of Nielsen’s national ratings service.
Changes Nielsen made to its TV ratings panel procedures caused it to understate Total Usage of Television (TUT) among Persons 18-49 by 2% to 6%, the MRC said in May. In addition the ratings watchdog said Persons Using Television (PUT) estimates among Persons 18-49 were understated by a range of 1% to 5% in February 2021.
The MRC analyses followed an uproar about panel quality and allegations of undercounting TV viewers by the major TV networks, which accused Nielsen of letting its sample quality suffer during the lockdown months of 2020. The issue revolved around Nielsen’s decision to suspend in-person recruitment for its ratings panels, due to health concerns during the pandemic.
Nielsen Vows To Work With MRC.
Following Wednesday’s MRC announcement, Nielsen pledged to work with the group to resolve the issues. “While we are disappointed with this outcome, the suspension will not impact the usability of our data,” the measurement provider said in a statement. “Nielsen remains the currency of choice for media companies, advertisers and agencies. We are committed to the audit process and during this pause in accreditation we will work with the MRC on resolving this suspension. We will also take the opportunity to focus on innovating our core products and continue to deliver data that clients can rely on, ultimately creating a better media future for the entire industry.”
In a letter to clients Wednesday, Nielsen CEO David Kenny described the four main areas that the company needs to remediate to regain accreditation and steps it has taken to do so.
The suspensions take effect 30 days after Nielsen’s earlier notifications meaning the national service will lose accreditation in about two weeks and the local market services in about three weeks.