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Nielsen: We’re Still Best at Identifying ‘Significantly Viewed’ Stations

(Image credit: Nielsen)

WASHINGTON—Nielsen has seen the comments by some broadcasters to the FCC regarding its methodology for determining whether a TV stations is “significantly viewed,” and has responded by saying that it remains the standard bearer for such a classification.

According to Nielsen’s comments to the FCC, Gray TV is one of the commenters that has questioned its ability to conduct significantly viewed measurements.

Determining that a station is “significantly viewed” in an adjacent market allows a MVPD serving that market to carry the station, even if it duplicates in-market syndicated or network programming, something that would otherwise be prohibited by the network nonduplication and syndicated exclusivity rules.

In a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on March 31, the FCC suggested that actual signal strength of a station may be a better metric for determining the “significantly viewed” designation than audience/viewership data. The NPRM sought comments on whether Nielsen, or another methodology, should decide if a station is significantly viewed, noting that the current metric is 50 years old and it is unclear if the necessary over-the-air viewership data is still available.

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The complaints against Nielsen, according to the company’s comments, from Gray TV and others is that Nielsen has an overreliance on Return Path Data that may have compromised its ability to accurately measure OTA viewing and that significantly viewed surveys are too expensive.

Nielsen says, however, that it does not principally use Return Path Data for its measurements, but rather supplements Return Path Data with a sufficient number of code readers and other advanced technology to measure OTA viewing—a process it says it is alone in doing.

As far as price, Nielsen says that, barring a few exceptions, it has always been its policy to price significantly viewed surveys at cost. Moving forward, Nielsen says there will no longer be any exceptions to that policy.

Gray, in its comments, suggests that the Longley-Rice predictive model be used for future determining whether a station’s signal reaches or does not reach 25% of the community in question.

“From Nielsen’s perspective, the problem with the predictive model is the same as it has always been: it is not evidence of anyone watching anything,” the comments read. “A predictive model cannot tell anyone whether a station is viewed at all, let alone how much or how often it is viewed.”

Nielsen says that is succeeds only if it accurately measures TV audiences, which is why it has invested so many resources into improving its measurements, including those for significantly viewed determinations.

“There is, in other words, no problem here that needs to be solved,” Nielsen concludes.

To read the full comments, visit FCC’s ECFS