NBCUniversal Confirms iSpot.tv As Additional Ratings Provider As Company Continues Quest For Nielsen Alternatives

As it continues to seek alternatives to Nielsen, the dominant TV ratings firm whose methodology has come under fierce industry criticism, NBCUniversal has signed a landmark deal with iSpot.tv.

The firm will be added to NBCU’s roster as an official measurement provider, in addition to Nielsen. The “test-and-learn” arrangement, in NBCU’s phrase, will provide iSpot data from both the programming and advertising sides. It is slated to include a pilot program for the 2022 Olympic Winter Games and Super Bowl LVI.

Major media agency Publicis Media will be the first media holding company to test the new setup across NBCUniversal’s One Platform.

After Nielsen conceded it had undercounted both linear TV and streaming during 2020 and part of 2021, backlash grew among advertisers and networks. The obscure but influential Media Rating Council yanked Nielsen’s accreditation and the measurement firm issued mea culpas, but insisted that at worst the margin of error had been in some cases 2%. But for media companies aggressively moving into streaming and trying to stay competitive amid ongoing disruptions from tech giants, any undercounting was a shock to the system.

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NBCU last year issued a request for proposals for companies interested in offering alternatives to Nielsen numbers. The RFP elicited dozens of responses. Nielsen, for its part, has emphasized its forthcoming measurement product Nielsen One, which is slated to launch by the end of this year. It is billed as a more comprehensive suite of measurement tools capable of giving a more precise picture of viewing on streaming, mobile and linear.

The methods of iSpot have been gaining favor in many corners of the media world in recent years. The emerging company has extensive reach into the expanding pool of smart TVs, so it can track viewing “off the glass,” spanning cable, satellite, linear, over-the-air or streaming.

Via iSpot, NBCU will get real-time airing data for linear, streaming and time-shifted viewing. They will also be provided with next-day gauges of metrics like verified ad impressions, reach and frequency, linear and streaming overlap and incrementality. Measurement will reflect households as well as individual viewers for age and gender as well as for customized audience groups.

The stakes are high for NBCU as 2022 gets under way. The Beijing Olympics and Super Bowl offer a one-two combination in February that will generate hundreds of millions of dollars in ad sales. The company has also been emphasizing new methods of measuring viewing and transacting with advertisers as it heads toward the 2022-23 upfront.

“This is not a shift away from one panel-based system to another, but a definitive step toward embracing the metrics brands already use to evaluate media companies,” said Kelly Abcarian, Measurement & Impact EVP at NBCU. “We have an obligation to deliver consumers a great experience, and an obligation to our customers and shareholders to utilize measurement systems that adequately capture the reach, attention, and outcomes we deliver.” The goal, she added, is to give advertisers “more data that accurately reflects our audiences, their consumption habits and campaign impact.”

NBCU was among the first networks to subscribe to verified impressions data when iSpot.tv became the first company to commercialize smart TV data in a measurement application in 2014. The two companies teamed up again in 2018 on business-outcome TV measurement.

“NBCU is leaning into giving advertisers what they want: fast, accurate and granular cross-platform measurement that proves the value of investments,” iSpot founder and CEO Sean Muller said. “We applaud the work NBCU kicked off last year to accelerate the TV industry toward a more audience-centric, cross-screen and outcome-oriented framework that helps brands invest with confidence.”

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