Nielsen USA Debuts Ratings Data for Commercials

04 June 2007

NEW YORK: Friday saw the unveiling by Nielsen Media Research of its long-awaited commercials ratings service - a development that finally brings America's TV ratings system into line with much of the rest of the developed world.

It reveals significant changes in US viewing behaviour and patterns. For example, primetime data for week starting April 30 highlights the impact of DVRs - now installed in 17% of US homes.

In DVR homes that week, 58% of network TV was watched live, while an eyebrow-raising 42% was viewed in playback mode.

Nielsen svp planning policy and analysis Pat McDonough observes: "About half" of viewers watching in playback mode "are skipping through the [advertising] spots".

Of equal - perhaps greater - significance is the fact that many programs notched higher ratings under the new system than previously. NBC's The Office, for example, averaged a 3.1 program rating, but achieved a 3.7 commercial rating that included three days of DVR playback.

This metric, dubbed "Live plus three", is likely to be used for negotiating many upfront deals this year, according to vendors and buyers of advertising time.

But McDonough insists the data won't confer an edge either on buyers or sellers during the upfront parley. Instead, she argues there will be "more information to make better decisions [and both sides] will be coming at it from an improved data set."

The new system's currency is deemed a 'Commercial minute' - a sixty second span with "one or more seconds of commercial content," according to Nielsen evp client services Sara Erichson. Such content excludes network program promotions or public service announcements.

Meantime . . .

  • Q1 Revenues Up 5% at Nielsen Parent
    Revenues for the first quarter of 2007 at The Nielsen Company rose 5% over the same period last year, helped by a strong performance (+ 7%) from its Media Research Division.

    While consumer research income increased 5%, business media declined 5%: due, says Nielsen, to changes in the timing of some major conferences and trade shows. It also acknowledges 'softness' in business-to-business advertising sales.

    Operating income was $56 million (€41.67m; £28.28m), down year-on-year compared with pro forma operating income of $62m. The firm attributes this to the negative impact of $19m in restructuring costs and a further $8 million incurred in recruiting and acquisition related compensation.

    Data sourced from and; additional content by WARC staff