ViacomCBS Blasts Nielsen Out-of-Home Ratings Delay

Calls last-minute move ‘unacceptable’

ViacomCBS blasted adding out-of-home viewers to its ratings.

The move is a particular blow to networks with sports programming–especially the NFL–including CBS.

Related: VAB Calls on Nielsen to Reverse OOH Delay

“Nielsen’s abrupt delay of the long-planned integration of OOH viewing into the National TV currency less than two months before it was scheduled to be implemented is unacceptable and unjustifiable,” ViacomCBS said in a statement. “ViacomCBS – along with our peers and the VAB – is calling on Nielsen to reverse its decision.”

Related: Nielsen Delays Adding Out-of-Home to Ratings

Nielsen was supposed to integrate out-of-home viewers into its ratings in September. It began telling clients about the delay on Wednesday.

The ratings company, often an industry punching bag, blamed the COVID-19 pandemic for the problem.

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

“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”

In the meantime, Nielsen will provide standalone reports on how many people watch shows–and ballgames–in bars, hotels, health clubs and other public spaces.

Many networks have negotiated to have out-of-home audiences counted in advertising buys. Some clients have bought the larger viewing numbers.

But as the football season approaches, as well as the resumption of basketball and hockey and the delayed beginning of the baseball season, some deals that had been reached incorporating out-of-home viewing may have to be redone.

CBS signed up for out-of-home measurement from Nielsen in 2017. At the time, it noted that adding out-of-home viewing boosted ratings for NCAA Men’s basketball Final Four games by 1.1 million viewers or 18.9%.

ESPN and Turner at that point were also getting out-of-home ratings from Nielsen.