The heat is on for Nielsen, which had been feeling pressure from digital upstarts. Fox Television Stations has become the first network owned and operated station group to adopt Rentrak’s Local TV ratings across all of its 28 stations across 18 markets from New York City to Ocala-Gainesville, Fla. In a ringing endorsement, FTS has entered a long-term agreement with Rentrak, which has evolved from a video cassette distributor to a viable challenger to Nielsen’s monopoly in the ratings measuring by using data from cable set-top boxes. FTS is not dropping Nielsen — at least not for now — adding Rentrak as an alternative source of local market television ratings data. Per the announcement, the agreement will provide Fox with access to Rentrak’s StationView Essentials software and TV ratings information including Rentrak’s single-source auto and political ratings. “We are happy to have immediate access to Rentrak’s Advanced Demographics data,” said Jack Abernethy, CEO of FTS. “More importantly, we expect this will accelerate the long overdue progress toward an accurate digital measuring system in local TV, one based on a census, not estimates, and one that measures all screens.”
That has been a long-time complaint by the TV networks — that Nielsen has fallen behind the rapid evolution of TV viewing and its ratings are not capturing the true size of their audiences who are watching TV in a slew of alternative ways: online, on demand, on a computer, tablet or a smartphone. CBS also has a deal with Rentrak, while NBC employed another Nielsen rival, comScore, to measure the viewership of the Sochi Olympics on all platforms. Nielsen plans to roll out a service measuring mobile viewing in the fall.