Cable Networks' Sucker Punch for Nielsen Ad-Ratings

26 October 2006

NEW YORK: Nielsen Media Research's hoped-for new moneyspinner - a system that measures viewing of commercials [WARC News: 12-Jul-06] - could be grounded before takeoff, in the face of united opposition from America's cable TV industry.

A powerful quintet, NBC Universal, MTV Networks, Discovery Networks US, Turner Cable-Networks and ESPN, have declined to participate in the project - at least initially - citing mutual disquiet at Nielsen's methodology.

Their unease is shared by the Cable Television Advertising Bureau, which has recommended its members to abstain.

The nub of the problem is that on cable channels Nielsen's system is unable to distinguish between a national and a local ad within the same commercial break.

The system is meant to measure only minutes of commercial time sold to national advertisers; but cable bosses argue that distribution of their programming isn't as uniform as on broadcast television. Nielsen, they say, can't therefore track commercial minutes on cable as effectively as broadcast TV.

Nielsen has postponed the launch date by a month to continue discussing its system with the networks, and now hopes to publish the commercial-ratings data in mid-December.

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff