Independent Broadcasters Slam Nielsen’s ‘Outdated System of Ratings Gathering’

Photo Credit: Eric Nopanen

The Independent Broadcasters Association (IBA) has slammed Nielsen’s “outdated system of ratings gathering” ahead of the “Subscriber First” policy’s 2021 rollout – besides indicating that it’s “in conversations” with Bellevue, Washington’s Eastlan Ratings to design a digital-ratings tool.

Nielsen Audio higher-ups introduced the controversial “Subscriber First” pivot last week. In brief, the 97-year-old ratings firm currently details the listenership stats of all the stations in its measured markets, but will cease doing so (on summary-data lists shared with advertisers) beginning next year. Instead, only subscribing stations will make their way onto these lists. Managing Director Brad Kelly cited Nielsen’s continued tech investments and already-implemented cost-saving initiatives, including ceasing operations in nine markets and laying off approximately 3,500 of its 44,000 or so employees, as some of the reasons behind the switch.

The Independent Broadcasters Association, which Adams Radio Group CEO Ron Stone launched earlier this year, has taken aim at the quick-approaching change. In a firmly worded statement, Stone noted: “The enormous fees that radio stations have been subjected to should have been addressed long ago. The outdated system of ratings gathering should have also been addressed. The idea that we are still relying on a system that has never adapted to a digital world by itself makes no sense.”

The IBA organizer also asked whether existing subscribers would see their fees reduced if other market stations began paying Nielsen, before placing the blame for potential budgetary constraints squarely on the company’s shoulders. “In a world where data collection has never been easier or less expensive, NIELSEN failed to adapt and chose instead to continue measuring with outdated and unreliable methods.”

Lastly, Stone concluded his statement by specifying that the potential Eastlan Ratings digital service would deliver real-time results to all stations, factoring for both terrestrial and streaming, and eliminating “the need for a printed diary or additional devices.” (Radio markets with ratings calculated by Nielsen’s “Portable People Meter” will transition to Subscriber First in January of 2021, followed in April by markets with the continuous diary measurements system.)

Responding to a request for comment from All Access, Nielsen addressed the IBA’s remarks by stating, in part: “This additional step in our subscriber first policy is an efficiency-minded, business-driven decision designed to encourage non-subscribing stations to invest in the service to become subscribers.”

New York City-based Nielsen Holdings released its third-quarter earnings report (for the three months ending on September 30th) today. The analysis includes better-than-expected earnings, with $1.56 billion in revenue and net income of $7 million (against a $472 million loss during the same period in 2019). Plus, the company announced yesterday that it had sold the Nielsen Global Connect manufacturer and retail intelligence division (now NielsenIQ) to private equity firm Advent International for $2.7 billion.

During today’s trading hours, the per-share price of Nielsen stock (NLSN) grew 3.85 percent from Friday’s close, finishing at $14.03.

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