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NBCUniversal Ad Sales Chief Slams Nielsen for TV Measurement Problems

If Nielsen isn’t going to do a good enough job accurately measuring TV to satisfy NBCUniversal, the conglomerate isn’t about to stand idly by.

That’s the word from Linda Yaccarino, chairman of advertising sales and client partnerships, who had harsh words for the measurement giant in a keynote Q&A at Variety Entertainment Summit on Thursday at CES.

She issued a call to action for the entire industry to make their frustrations known. “It’s unfair to marketers, it’s unfair to content creators, and it’s up to all of us in this industry to take a stand,” said Yaccarino. “We need to reach beyond a C3 rating.”

Yaccarino cited NBCU’s move last October to take CNBC Business Day off of Nielsen as an example of the industry not having to fear negative repercussions.

“Nothing bad happened,” Yaccarino noted. “The sky didn’t fall. The network didn’t go off the air. In fact, marketers love that they’ve finally got an accurate picture of their audience. And there’s no reason we can’t do that across our entire industry.”

If Nielsen’s move toward introducing a Total Audience Measurement solution that adequately tracked viewing across platforms was supposed to satisfy NBCU, Yaccarino didn’t seem too impressed. She cited Nielsen’s expansion from 25,000 to 40,000 homes to measure wasn’t enough considering offices and bars still aren’t being monitored.

“Yes, Nielsen just debuted their Total Audience metric, but progress is slow, and we have some serious questions about their methodology,” said Yaccarino. “There’s nothing ‘total’ about that metric if you ask me.”

Yaccarino lamented how NBC series like “Blindspot” are seeing as much as 700,000 viewers in the 18-49 demo not being accounted for. “And, to get those totally wrong numbers, I have to wait three weeks for C3 delivery. It’s insane,” she groused.

Making matters worse is that streaming services and social platforms are winning over marketers with more data-driven products despite the fact their own ad solutions have serious problems of their own.

“But I get it,” she said. “For marketers, the allure of comprehensive audience data is powerful enough to ignore all that. I mean, consider the alternative. What does a C3 rating tell you anyway? Almost nothing. Age, gender, maybe? It’s practically useless. But that’s TV.”

NBCU has its own approach to melding content and data analytics called “VT,” which stands for video technology.

“With VT, we’re revolutionizing our data offerings to give marketers the clearest possible picture of the audience, and the ability to create powerful, meaningful moments with them,” she said.

It helps that NBCU has a parent company like Comcast, which has a massive audience base with data-rich set-top boxes in their homes.

“Comcast has 23 million subscribers,” noted Yaccarino. “Who do you think has the better data?”

Nevertheless, Comcast data is a small comfort when the currency remains Nielsen, which she believes is undercounting NBCU audiences.

“Imagine you’re a quarterback, and every time you threw a touchdown, it was only worth four points instead of six,” vented Yaccarino. “That’s basically what I’m dealing with every friggin’ day.”

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