Alison Weissbrot
Sep 2, 2021

Nielsen loses accreditation for national and local TV in the US

The Media Ratings Council accreditation loss will push the industry toward use of alternative currencies.

Nielsen loses accreditation for national and local TV in the US

Nielsen’s stranglehold on TV measurement is coming to a stunning end.

After weeks of back and forth, Nielsen has officially been stripped of its accreditation for local and national TV measurement by the Media Ratings Council (MRC), the independent body that enforces fair and transparent measurement standards in media. The suspension will go into effect later this month, the MRC said.

The loss of MRC accreditation is a big blow to Nielsen, especially for national TV ratings, as it was the only measurement service to obtain the badge. The MRC voted to strip Nielsen of its accredited status after the measurement firm undercounted national TV household viewership during the pandemic, sparking pushback from TV networks.

National TV is the third service for which Nielsen has lost MRC accreditation in the past year, including its Digital Ad Ratings (DAR) and local TV ratings.

The MRC suspends accreditations when a service has documented “material standards non-compliance or operational issues” that negatively affect the service, according to a press release issued Wednesday afternoon.

The MRC informed Nielsen its accreditation could be suspended on August 12 for national TV ratings and August 20 for its local market services. The local market services, which had been on hiatus since January, were suspended after Nielsen confirmed on August 17 it planned to add broadband-only homes into its local panels in October 2021, according to the press release.

“While we are disappointed the situation has come to this, we believe these are the proper actions for the MRC to take at this time,” said George Ivie, executive director and CEO of the MRC, in a statement.  “MRC’s board of directors, which represents an extremely broad range of industry constituencies, and includes advertisers, agencies and media companies of all types, is strongly unified in its positions on these matters.”

The drama began in May, when the MRC found Nielsen had consistently underreported national TV viewership numbers in February 2021, leading the service to understate the number of people from 18-49 years of age watching TV by 2%, to 6%.

That snafu led the Video Advertising Bureau (VAB), a consortium of media companies including Disney, ViacomCBS and NBCUniversal, to publicly ask the MRC to strip Nielsen of its accredited status. Nielsen proactively asked the MRC to suspend its accreditation on August 12 in an attempt to get in front of the issue.

Last week, NBCUniversal took the situation into its own hands by issuing an RFP for new measurement partners to more than 70 companies and stating it would likely work with more than one partner moving forward.

While the industry hasn’t quit its Nielsen addiction altogether, with eyes on its cross-platform measurement solution, Nielsen One, rolling out in 2024, many are frustrated with the service and are already looking toward new currencies that more accurately reflect changes in consumer media habits.

However, getting to a new currency will likely be difficult and take many years and iterations.

“MRC stands committed in our willingness to work with Nielsen toward the goal of being able to restore accreditation to these important services at the earliest possible time, and it is our hope that Nielsen likewise will continue to engage with MRC and its clients in pursuit of that goal,” Ivie continued in the statement.

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