Nielsen Announces "Impressions First Initiative"

(Image credit: Nielsen)

NEW YORK—In what could be a major shift in the way local TV viewing is measured and local TV ads are sold, Nielsen has announced an "Impressions First Initiative" to support an industry-wide move to impressions-based buying and selling in local markets across the country.

As a key step in that direction, it will integrate broadband only homes (BBO) into Nielsen's local measurement metrics in January 2022. 

As part of the announcement, some broadcasters, including Nexstar and Hearst, as well as media buying companies backed the move to impressions, which will involve the addition of BBO homes. 

The inclusion of BBO homes will enable the industry to rapidly transition to trading on impressions, Nielsen said, which will represent all viewers regardless of platform. For more than two years, Nielsen has been working with the media and advertising industries in preparation for the inclusion of broadband-only homes in Local TV measurement for its 56 LPM and Set Meter markets, Nielsen said. 

The company also noted that the move to an impressions-based currency will deliver a more complete, precise and representative audience measurement and that the move to impressions will also enable cross-platform audience measurement and lay the groundwork for implementing Nielsen ONE across local, national, and digital measurement. 

"Nielsen is committed to measuring all audiences and the complete video consumption across the local marketplace," said David Kenny, CEO of Nielsen. "Impressions are the great equalizer across all screens, programs, listeners and viewers. Nielsen's move to prioritize reporting impressions will help standardize the way it measures ads and content, enabling greater comparability across National, Local and Digital and is in line with Nielsen's initiative to drive comparable metrics which are foundational to Nielsen ONE."

As part of the announcement, Nexstar Media Group, Inc., the country's largest local broadcasting group, backed the move to impressions-based measurement.

"We believe the move to impressions and the integration of BBO homes into local measurement metrics is critical to making sure that every viewer is counted," said Perry Sook, chairman and CEO, Nexstar Media Group, Inc. "It also enables buyers and sellers to make comparisons across all video across platforms, gives them the most complete view of audience consumption and behavior, and facilitates automated buying." 

"Broadcasters have known for years that our content is being viewed inside and outside the home on many devices and services," said Jordan Wertlieb, president of Hearst Television added. "This move to impression-focused selling is something that will not only allow the most-watched content to get the full credit it deserves, but will also allow our clients to truly see the unique value proposition we offer: the best environment with the largest reach."

"Agencies and advertisers are eager for Nielsen to incorporate BBO homes into local TV samples beginning January 2022," said Bernie Shimkus, vice president, director of research and consumer insights, Harmelin Media. "Over the years, the number of BBO homes has more than tripled in the U.S. from about 3% in 2015 and now accounts for at least 20% of local TV homes today.  The inclusion of BBO homes is essential to local TV measurement and will also facilitate the move to impressions-based buying of local TV."

"As a leader in the transition to impression-based investment for local over the past six years, we at Magna Global support and appreciate Nielsen's prioritization of reporting on impressions," said Kathy Doyle, executive vice president, managing director of local investment, Magna Global. "In moving forward to a more data informed approach whereby we target more representative and inclusive audiences, impressions are absolutely the core building block that we must start with as an industry."

As part of Nielsen's support of an industry-wide move from ratings to impressions in January 2022, Nielsen said it will default its local reporting settings to impressions in its software systems (Arianna, NLTV, eVip) and will lead with impressions in all of its external communications. Ratings will remain available to end-users for planning purposes. 

"Nexstar's sales teams have been working toward the transition to selling impressions in coordination with a number of our largest clients, as it is the best way to make sure that no viewer goes uncounted," said Andrew Alford, president of Broadcasting for Nexstar Media Inc.  "We expect to be transacting on impressions exclusively in early 2022, so Nielsen's decision to implement an impressions-based measurement metric at the same time is a very welcome development."

Nielsen, which had previously announced a BBO implementation date of October 2021, made the final decision to begin implementation in January 2022 in response to industry requests, the company said. 

The new timing will enable Nielsen to publish an official BBO UE that will be audited and reviewed by the Media Rating Council (MRC). In addition to delivering one month of impact data, a January implementation will include all BBO homes. Adding BBO homes will increase reporting sample sizes significantly and capture impressions that may be missing, especially for sports and OTT, Nielsen explained.

Nielsen has been under fire for inaccuracies in its local measurement data and problems with its attempts to add BBO homes has been criticized by the MRC, which pulled Nielsen’s accreditation recently

George Winslow

George Winslow is the senior content producer for TV Tech. He has written about the television, media and technology industries for nearly 30 years for such publications as Broadcasting & Cable, Multichannel News and TV Tech. Over the years, he has edited a number of magazines, including Multichannel News International and World Screen, and moderated panels at such major industry events as NAB and MIP TV. He has published two books and dozens of encyclopedia articles on such subjects as the media, New York City history and economics.