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What NBCUniversal's declaration of independence means for the future of TV measurement

The news: NBCUniversal announced Monday it is partnering with “a broad network of trusted partners” to create “a full suite of interoperable measurement solutions” in light of what it views as a failure of legacy measurement currencies to measure changing viewing habits.

  • Nielsen’s rocky accreditation status with the Media Ratings Council is escalating the fragmentation of TV measurement across linear and digital divides.
  • As Nielsen’s reign comes to an end, competitors in the space seem to agree: A universal standard isn’t needed, and each of them knows the best way to track their own audiences.

What this means: NBCUniversal is stepping into the limelight with an independent alternative, and its potential partners send a strong message to advertisers that independent metrics are just as trustworthy as their predecessors.

  • The announcement blog post, “It’s Time for Our Industry To Declare #MeasurementIndependence,” calls for exactly that: a future where the media industry operates on a number of independent measurement systems, rather than defaulting to a service like Nielsen.
  • That independent approach has worked well for connected TV (CTV), where ad spending has increased by just over $9 billion since 2018 and will continue to grow. CTV ad spending will increase from $13.41 billion in 2021 to $27.47 billion in 2025, when it will account for nearly 30% of total TV ad spend.

The opportunity: NBCUniversal’s main edge is its scale and credibility.

  • By choosing to partner with multiple measurement firms—NBCUniversal reportedly requested proposals from Nielsen, Comscore, Conviva, iSpot, and others, per Nexttv—it can reassure advertisers its data is credible.

CTV manufacturers are also flexing their market share. Companies like LG, Vizio, and Samsung among others have emerged as additional sources of data for marketers.

  • Time spent with CTV increased 33.8% in 2020, and the ability to deliver more targeted ads to viewers than on linear TV creates an opportunity advertisers can’t ignore.

The bigger picture: As alternatives crop up, a centralized standard like Nielsen may never exist again.

eMarketer principal analyst at Insider Intelligence Paul Verna says:

  • “As TV viewing becomes more fragmented, the ad inventory that supports it is also expanding to multiple stakeholders with different business agendas, including TV networks and their affiliated streaming services, cable/satellite operators and their digital counterparts, smart TV manufacturers, and aggregators such as Roku and Amazon. Coming up with a currency everyone can agree on in such a fragmented market is a tall order, but NBCUniversal's efforts are a step in the right direction.”