Networks Fume As Nielsen’s Expanded Ratings Liftoff Stuck On The Launch Pad On Day 1

The highly anticipated blast of deeper TV data from the measurement has fizzled out on Friday

UPDATE, 5:33 PM: Network sources are still insisting that they haven’t received the ratings information that they expected from Nielsen, but the data company says they delivered what they promised for this first day of expanded measurements.

“All PPM market data was delivered to clients today,” a spokesperson for Nielsen told Deadline in the past few minutes. “Data for Atlanta was delivered at 7PM ET due to a telecommunication issue. The rest of the PPM market data was delivered at 3 PM ET, on schedule. Set meter + RPD market data will be delivered to clients tomorrow and code reader + RPD data will be delivered Sunday.”
PREVIOUSLY, 3:41 PM, EXCLUSIVE: Hours after the local markets’ numbers should have come in, Nielsen’s much vaunted leap today into a greater ratings universe has turned into an embarrassing pratfall.

“This is a joke — it’s been crickets,” one network executive said this afternoon of the lack of promised data from the measurement company on Friday. “This was botched from the beginning, with little consultation and little consideration to a softer transition,” a sports network corner-office holder lamented. “We all want more information that reflects our true reach and audience, but Nielsen is lousy at communicating how we get there. And nothing has shown up today.”

Today is the first day without the early metrics from 56 markets that often kick off the ratings race every morning and often are the barometer for live events like last night’s Thursday Night Football NFL game and the Academy Awards. With often unreliable and unadjusted fast affiliate ratings taking the lead this morning to no one’s pleasure, Nielsen was to unveil its long-planned and high-tech expansion with greater depth in 44 local markets and the inclusion of out-of-home measurements through portable people meters.

The shift by Nielsen — which has faced heated contract talks with the likes of CBS, rising competition from ComScore and fleeing clients in recent years over their measurement process — was seen as a necessary evolution from a business and cultural POV. Although change can be hard, the latest move by Nielsen has been welcomed in principle by the nets as a real effort to track what people actually are watching in the radically shifting TV landscape.

However, across the Big 4, we’re now hearing that the ETA on the first set of data from this new approach has come and gone and there’s been nada. We’re also hearing that there is no word if or when the new currencies of the ratings realm actually will show up today, where it is already evening on the East Coast.

Expected to come in the ET afternoon as opposed to the early-morning metered market statistics of old, the newly minted enhanced measurements were supposed to be showing up at ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox’s research departments around 11 AM PT at the latest. While a short delay was anticipated by all and unofficially warned of by Nielsen for some first day jitters and double-checking, it was not presumed that things would be stuck on the launch pad, as they seem to be.

The source of the at least part of the problem could be Atlanta, we’ve learned. Although no specifics are available, there seems to a delay in putting together information out of the Peach State metropolis. There also seems to be issues with some of the PPMs, though that could be related to the Atlanta data collection

When contacted by Deadline, Nielsen had a “no comment” on the situation and the frustration that the networks are feeling.

That’s a bit ironic when you consider the assurances Nielsen was touting when it announced the move as “a major milestone in its multiyear effort to combine advanced meter technology, big data and people-powered panels,” to quote its press release.

“As the currency provider for TV measurement, Nielsen is the reliable, independent, source of truth that the market trades on daily,” Catherine Herkovic said in that very same release on Thursday.

“We have built a business on the foundation of trust, integrity and transparency. Nielsen data represents everyone,” added the EVP and Managing Director, Nielsen Local TV. “Being able to measure local TV in a way that represents all races, ages, ethnicities and behaviors is more critical than ever. Only Nielsen offers a complete, unbiased, holistic view of local audiences.”

Or not, as seems to be the case study today.

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