×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

CBS, Nielsen Fail to Strike New Deal as Contract Lapses

CBS, which distributes some of TV’s most-watched programs, may have to use a new way to count its viewers.

CBS and the media-measurement service Nielsen are without a contract after their current deal lapsed at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, according to two people familiar with the matter. The situation — for now — remains fluid. Talks are likely to continue. But CBS is determined to secure a pact that it feels makes the best economic sense for the company while Nielsen believes the network will find negotiating with advertisers more difficult if it does not have access to its measures of audience viewing, these people said.

CBS has been weighing dropping Nielsen and instead using its own data as well as measurement information from Comscore, a Nielsen rival, to do deals with advertisers. CBS senior executives informed staffers at the company’s owned and operated stations and various other business units late last year to prepare in case a deal with Nielsen could not be reached. The network is the home of such popular programs as “NCIS,” “The Big Bang Theory,” “The CBS Evening News” and “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.”

At issue is a long-running complaint from TV networks that Nielsen isn’t measuring the many different audiences for their programming as well as it should. As smartphones, mobile tablets and broadband-connected TV’s gain more consumer acceptance, audiences are increasingly able to stream their TV favorites in on-demand fashion, making the task of counting them exponentially more difficult. TV networks have long based their advertising rates on Nielsen’s measure of linear TV audiences, which have slipped as consumers embrace Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime and other streaming and on-demand options. In such an environment, TV networks believe Nielsen’s overnight ratings are no longer the critical yardstick of viewership they once were.

And yet, Nielsen has long been the standard of measurement in the media industry. Media buyers and TV networks do deals for billions of dollars based on its measure of how many people are watching the commercial breaks in various TV programs. Nielsen has worked in recent years to start measuring viewers who watch TV in new ways, including video streaming, across multiple viewing windows and even in bars, hotels and other out-of-home venues.

The move will not be without potential ramifications for CBS. While many of the nation’s big media companies have worked to expand the way they get credit from advertisers for audiences, Nielsen continues to support the one that brings in the most money –  people who watch TV via linear viewing.  If CBS were to move forward without Nielsen measures,  according to one person familiar with Nielsen’s side of the talks., it could be akin to walking into a bank that uses American dollars with big handfuls of Italian lira. CBS’ access to Nielsen data has been revoked with the lapsed contract, this person said, but the media agencies it does business with will continue to be able to use the information, and might try to strike new agreements that rely on smaller audience numbers.

Millions of dollars could potentially be at stake for both sides.

Nielsen measures underpin so-called “scatter” ad deals for CBS commercial inventory bought close to air date;  the value of any “make-goods,” or ad inventory CBS would have to give clients whose previously-aired ads did not meet previous ratings guarantees; and local ads. Under one estimate, provided by the person familiar with Nielsen’s side of talks, more than $500 million in CBS advertising could potentially be affected. At the same time, CBS’ contract with Nielsen has been said to be worth more than $100 million a year.

Nielsen executives are concerned, the person said, that CBS not having a Nielsen deal could destabilize the rest of the marketplace for TV advertising.

Nielsen has been enmeshed in negotiations on several fronts, recently renewing a deal with Raycom Media, owner of TV stations in cities like New Orleans and Richmond, and Hearst Television. But another company, Gray Television, said late last year it had decided to use Comscore instead of Nielsen starting in 2019.

 

Popular on Variety

More TV

  • Elite Season 2

    San Sebastian: Spain’s SVOD Players Debate Competition, Brand, Talent

    SAN SEBASTIAN  — Executives from HBO, Netflix, Amazon and Movistar+ and “Elite” co-creator Darío Madrona took to the stage to field questions on the Global Impact of Spanish Series. Here, briefly, are five takeaways: 1.Spain First “La Casa de Papel” was watched by 34,355,956 Netflix accounts over its first seven days,  after a July 19 [...]

  • Samsung Makes Bid to Keep Viewers

    Samsung Makes Bid to Keep Viewers From Skipping Fox Ad Breaks

    Fox is hoping to knit together the seconds-long divide between a TV program and the commercials that support it. During ad breaks for a few football broadcasts, tomorrow’s run of the Emmys and Wednesday’s season premiere of “The Masked Singer,” the network will kick off ad sessions with special show promos that display artistic renderings [...]

  • Patria

    HBO Europe Unveils ‘Patria’ Footage to Captive San Sebastian Audience

    SAN SEBASTIAN — Amid large expectation, HBO Europe has revealed first footage giving a first sense of tone and pace of its Spanish original series “Patria.” A packed-to-overflowing press conference on Saturday morning at the San Sebastian Festival can be read as one sign of the potential popularity of the eight-part series. The panel sneak-peek [...]

  • Topic Studios

    Layoffs Hit Topic Studios as TV Division Relocates to West Coast (EXCLUSIVE)

    A small round of layoffs has hit Topic Studios this week in the television division, insiders familiar with the company told Variety. One of the insiders said three executives at the New York-based producer and distributor are out: senior vice president of scripted programming and Viacom alum Lisa Leingang, vice president of development Mona Panchal [...]

  • Peter Weber and Mike Johnson

    'The Bachelor's' Mike Johnson on Diversity and New Leading Man Peter Weber

    ABC named its newest star of “The Bachelor” this week, officially making Peter Weber the leading man for Season 24 of the long-running dating show. Social media backlash ensued following the announcement due to ABC’s selection lacking diversity, yet again. Since the dating franchise began in 2002, there has been only one “Bachelorette” of color [...]

  • ABC Studios Logo

    ABC Studios Head of Alternative Fernando Hernandez Exits

    ABC Studios’ head of alternative Fernando Hernandez has departed from his post at the Disney-owned television studio, a source familiar with the situation told Variety. The Hollywood Reporter first reported the news. Hernandez’s exit follows an executive shuffling at the top in recent months that has included the departure of Amy Hartwick, ABC Studio’s head [...]

  • Rob Cowan, Greg Silverman'The Conjuring 2'

    Greg Silverman’s Stampede, School of Rock Team for Unscripted Series (EXCLUSIVE)

    Former president of Warner Bros. Pictures Greg Silverman is partnering with School of Rock through his content creation company Stampede. The collaboration with the music school will create exclusive content, starting with the development of an unscripted series.  School of Rock operates a network of performance-based education franchises that offer students of all ages guidance [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content