CBS stalls on Nielsen contract renewal, nearing end of an era

Nielsen’s long-term audience measurement contract with CBS has expired, with some sources suggesting talks are set to continue, while others have implied CBS will instead recruit bitter rival ComScore – with $millions at stake for all parties.

TV networks in the US are expressing doubt regarding the reliability of Nielsen’s audience measurement capabilities across devices, particularly for audiences viewing their programming on streaming services, while Nielsen argues CBS will find negotiations with advertisers fraught in its absence and struggle to negotiate a price for ad slots without its audience measurement clout. We doubt that very much, as most major advertising agencies will still have access to Nielsen figures and this means there is potential to strike smaller audience measurement deals.

The way we see it, ComScore could do a decent job but at a fraction of Nielsen’s price, costing CBS over $100 million a year, according to Variety sources, stating that the broadcaster intends to combine its in-house viewer data with ComScore. Such a switch wouldn’t be so outlandish, as Gray Television said it plans to drop Nielsen for ComScore in 2019.

CBS has since issued a statement slamming Nielsen, “While Nielsen has made some strides in this area, progress has not been what we and many clients would like, and local TV measurement is particularly challenged. Despite this backdrop, Nielsen continues to use market power to bundle disparate services and raise prices for services that don’t sufficiently address ongoing changes in the industry. If we cannot come to an agreement with Nielsen, we will continue to employ the many viable alternatives available to us, including Comscore.”

However, a bizarre quote from a Variety source argues otherwise, “If CBS were to move forward without Nielsen measures, it could be akin to walking into a bank that uses American dollars with big handfuls of Italian lira” – adding that it could cost CBS more than $500 million in ad revenues and have a knock-on effect on the wider marketplace.

Well, perhaps Nielsen should have thought of that before publishing its conveyor belt of misleading reports over the years, like its Total Audience Reports with numbers which just don’t add up and ignore the existence of Netflix.

What Faultline Online Reporter has said before is that the world needs a single supply side solution that includes addressable broadcast advertising and every form of online video which has quality TV content, and a single buy side system which plugs into it as a marketplace. But we are a long way from that, and the major players like FreeWheel, are trying to evolve towards it.