Nielsen blurb plan on hold

B'caster concerns delay ad idea

NEW YORK — In a second postponement, Nielsen has tossed out its plan to start publishing ratings of commercials on Dec. 11.

Key problem is that Nielsen’s biggest clients, the broadcast networks, want “to take a deep breath” before going forward, said Alan Wurtzel, exec VP of research for NBC Universal.

As Wurtzel explains it, media buyers are still not ready to pay for rating numbers attached to a show that includes TiVo usage of each episode from a few hours to seven days after the real-time telecast.

These buyers assume that people watching a show on TiVo after the fact are automatically fast-forwarding through the commercials.

But CBS exec veep-chief research officer Dave Poltrack said that he’s burrowed through reams of commercial data embedded deep in the printouts spewed out every day by Nielsen. His finding: About 40% of viewers watching a pre-recorded broadcast program on a digital video recorder are not zapping the 30-second spots but letting them play out to their full length.

So Wurtzel, Poltrack and their broadcast peers want Nielsen to focus its attention on rating the commercials and publishing results that are convincing and accessible to the industry.

If that figure of 40% of commercial viewing holds up in the new Nielsen reports, the broadcasters would be able to use it as a bludgeon to extract more money out of Madison Avenue for their blurbs.

Nielsen has called a meeting of its clients for later this month to discuss, among other topics, adding a fourth audience-measurement data stream to the existing three of live, live plus 24 hours and live plus seven days. Wurtzel suggested that live plus two days would be a good addition, helping the industry to figure out exactly how people are using their DVRs.

One egregious example of unfairness to NBC, said Wurtzel, centers on “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip,” its highly regarded but low-rated primetime dramedy. An eye-opening 18% of the show’s viewers watch an average episode on their DVRs up to a week after its day/date telecast Monday at 10. Advertisers don’t pay for those viewers, even though “Studio 60” is at the top of the list of favorites among people who are college educated and earn six-figure incomes.

There’s not as much at stake in advertising dollars to cable TV and TV syndication because they don’t draw as many viewers as the broadcasters, so there’s less TiVoing of their shows going on.

But Nielsen said in a Nov. 3 letter to its clients that it expects, over the next few months, to solve the glitches that have caused all of the cable networks to reject the new commercial-rating blueprint as error-prone and unreliable.

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