NEW YORK: After many months of anticipation and much wrangling with industry clients, Nielsen Media Research has announced it will launch its commercial ratings service on May 31. However, the timing is too late for this year's upfront sales when the TV networks sell their ad inventory.

The new 'average-commercial-minute' data file will include broadcast networks, cable and syndication. It will offer data on live viewing only plus, if required, DVR playback within any of five time intervals: playback on the same day, within one day, two days, three days or seven days.

The period from May through August 2007 will be offered free to clients as "evaluation" data.

Nielsen will also release an updated version of its NPower software on January 29 that will allow some clients to perform their own commercial minute ratings calculations to include DVR playback. They will be able to use the information as negotiating currency during the upfront buying period.

The provision of commercial ratings came into focus a year ago as a reaction to increased personal video recorder use. Broadcasters want to be paid for playback viewing.

Marketers, on the other hand, are reluctant to spend their ad dollars in this way, questioning whether anyone watches commercials when viewing shows on a DVR.

Nielsen's offering was flagged as a solution acceptable to both sides and trumpeted as the new currency of TV airtime buying [WARC News: 12-Jul-06].

However, the issue has become increasingly fraught as interested parties argue over how a commercial rating should be defined and whether Nielsen can accurately capture and record viewing behavior.

Data sourced from; additional content by WARC staff