At the heart of the fracas is Nielsen's move -- which it has since delayed -- to omit its live data stream, representing only the ratings for TV shows as they are being watched, from the data it gives advertisers, in favor of a stream that would also include time-shifted viewing of programming during the 24 hours after a show originally aired, known as live-plus-same-day. Nielsen would also provide two other "plus" streams that also measure after-the-fact viewing. Nielsen still plans to make the shift early this year.
As is always the case when it comes to measurement data, there's a lot of fine print. In this case, it's that since the ratings, in either case, only measure the shows, and not the commercials, the advertising industry has come to the conclusion that the live-plus-same day ratings, and the other "plus" streams, are inherently flawed because DVR watchers are a commercial-skipping crowd. The stations obviously believe that's not necessarily the case. So who is right? This is where it gets interesting. It's not as clear as it sounds:
- According to a report last year by the DVR Institute, only about five to six percent of ads are skipped. While that number will undoubtedly rise as DVR penetration gets beyond what is now roughly a quarter of U.S. households, it still would tilt the scale in favor of a live-plus-same-day rating being more accurate than a live one.
- Of course, other studies have radically different results. A study done by Oliver Wyman researchers a year earlier said that 85 percent of all DVR owners skip three-quarters of the ads. Obviously, they can't both be right.
Previous coverage of Nielsen and local stations at BNET Media: