Nielsen Delays Adding Out-of-Home to Ratings

Move could force nets to redo sports ad deals

In a move that caught some networks by surprise, Nielsen is delaying its plan to include out-of-home viewing in its ratings.

Networks have been pushing to have out-of-home viewing added to traditional ratings to increase audiences, particularly for sports programming.

With sports leagues looking to start up live games, networks have already been selling advertising based on traditional plus out of home viewing.

The impact is largest with the National Football League, already the highest-rated programming on TV. The NFL is getting ready to open training camps and have its season despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

The delay, first reported by Sports Business Daily, could force the networks to go back and renegotiate some of those deals.

According to SBD, Nielsen was calling media companies Wednesday afternoon to tell them that the out-of-home ratings would not be launched in September.

Nielsen said the Coronavirus was responsible for the delay.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has had a far reaching effect on the media industry and on consumer viewing habits,” Nielsen said in a statement.

“Throughout this crisis, out-of-home audiences have been particularly hard hit, with estimates falling by as much as 60%. This is driven by broad stay-at-home orders, significant reduction in travel, closures of restaurants and public gathering establishments, and other situations that have reduced exposure to television content outside of the home. The recent surge in COVID-19 cases is expected to create further volatility in this space, making it challenging for the industry to plan around this audience segment,” Nielsen said.

“In consideration of the impact the pandemic has had on out-of-home audiences, Nielsen has decided to postpone the integration of PPM measured out-of-home viewing into the National TV currency. Nielsen will continue to offer its existing standalone out-of-home reporting service to subscribing clients, many of whom have used the service to transact on out-of-home audiences since 2017,” Nielsen said. “In recent days, several states have started to pause their reopening and local governments are considering the reimplementation of stay-at-home orders. With future uncertainty around how the pandemic will further impact out-of-home viewing, Fall 2020 is not the ideal time to integrate this measurement into currency. While a new implementation date has not been determined, Nielsen is prepared to complete the integration when appropriate and will reassess the situation in Q1 2021.”

Fox Sports and ESPN were among the first to as a special service and try to negotiate with advertisers using larger audience numbers.

Networks were to receive weekly reports that include daily data for program and commercial audience estimates. The out-of-home viewing data will be derived from Nielsen’s Portable People Meter (PPM) technology and combined with national TV ratings.

At the time, Nielsen said Fox regular season NFL games saw a 16% lift from added out-of-home viewing.

Sources said a significant number of advertisers agreed to include out-of-home viewing in their audience estimates.