TV of Tomorrow – Nielsen is There With Total Content Ratings

One of the most discussed topics at this year’s TV of Tomorrow was Data and Measurement. Panels ranging from measuring TV Everywhere to Programmatic to Big Data Advertising of Tomorrow kept the discussion of capturing consumer behavior across all platforms front and center.
Nielsen, the standard bearer of media measurement, has been focused on cross platform measurement issues for several years. Their vision, Total Audience: The Future of Audience Measurement, was presented by Nielsen executives Lynda Clarizio, President of U.S. Media, and Kelly Abcarian, SVP Watch Product Architecture, at the conference.  

The market size for media is expanding and measurement must keep pace. Clarizio noted that, “Media usage is increasing overall. There has been a dramatic increase across the U.S. population where 70 hours are spent in an average week consuming media.” Part of the expansion is due to “a significant increase in the use of TV connected devices.” These devices are increasingly being used by younger cohorts, indicating a trend that as the younger generations age, entire behavior patterns of media consumption will shift from the way it looks today. She continued, “the industry is coming together in one video marketplace - one industry. This has implications for how measurement evolves. We need independent measurement so we can get the full view about what is happening. The metrics need to be the same across platforms. There is confusion now in the industry. When describing performance, in Digital it is unique visitors but in Television it is average minute audience.”   

How can we bring all of the metrics together?  Abcarian explained that there was “a call to action last year to bring total audience to the marketplace and the measurement of ads. Our $75 billion marketplace based on the business rules that underpin C3 and C7 needs to evolve and reflect how content and ads are being distributed.” As a response to the call, Nielsen is launching in December Nielsen Total Content Ratings that brings together the digital contributions from Nielsen Digital Content Ratings to Nielsen TV Program Ratings that will enable the marketplace to get a full view of media consumption. “Comparable metrics is very important to ensure that when you combine audiences from linear and digital worlds, the use of metrics can consistently be applied across all platforms.  We believe these basic measurements can be applied across all platforms in a consistent way, metrics such as Average Audience Rating, Unique Reach, Average Frequency, Views, Total/Average Time Spent, and this will be based on Total U.S. population base instead of TV universe,” she added.
“Total Content Ratings,” explained Abcarian, “brings true apples-to-apples comparability to metrics. We need to insure that there is an independent Nielsen market-wide number across all players that allow someone to have confidence on both the sell side and the buy side to see the true way that TV and digital are being translated.”

We also need to include all platforms. She explained, “We want to make sure all platforms are included so that this is truly a “Total”, so that both buyers and sellers could understand the total consumption regardless of platform, ad time, ad load, or ad model.  In addition to traditional linear TV and the digital platforms, we are bringing together all of the viewing including DVR beyond 7 days – up to 35 days initially, as well as any VOD or Over the Top Viewing if enabled by the content provider.”  .”

 “One of the most challenging aspects of providing Total Audience is providing a de-duplicated reach across all platforms and ad models.  This is a key component that Total Content Ratings will provide so that buyers and sellers can understand how much of that viewing across platforms is truly incremental as well as duplicative. Our goal in Total Content Ratings, as we work with all of our clients in the industry, is to move from a proprietary view to a truly syndicated marketplace view, so that everyone can see everyone else’s data and non content providers can have a view into the same data set” she noted.
Nielsen’s Total Content Ratings service will be released later this month and into the next year. “We want to dispel the myth that innovation is not happening,” said Abcarian, “We have a twelve to eighteen month Nielsen roadmap of building blocks we have been delivering out to the marketplace to get to total measurement.”


  1. I still see issues with this model and personally think its still the same smoke and mirrors just with new lipstick. With ad blocking tech on the rise and everyone moving to subscription based models this old style thinking will again run into the same issue Nielsen has today. The future is in measuring engagement with what is inside content and how that translate into offline engagement. In my opinion.

  2. I agree that engagement is important but it has been very difficult for the industry to even define engagement much less try to agree on how to measure it.