Media Rating Council suspends Nielsen accreditations

Nielsen got hit with two votes of no confidence from the Media Rating Council this week when that industry non-profit suspended its accreditation of the ratings firm’s National Television, Local People Meter and Set Meter Markets services.

In a short statement, the New York-based MRC said its board of directors had voted to suspend all of the Nielsen services after warnings issued to Nielsen in August. It cited “material standards non-compliance or operational issues” and pointed in particular to Nielsen’s decision to add broadband-only households to its local markets starting in October.

“While we are disappointed that the situation has come to this, we believe these are the proper actions for the MRC to take at this time,” the MRC statement quoted CEO and executive director George Ivie. “MRC’s Board of Directors, which represents an extremely broad range of industry constituencies, and includes advertisers, agencies, and media companies of all types, is strongly unified in its positions on these matters.”

The MRC statement did not elaborate on issues with Nielsen data, but Disney provided a statement to Deadline’s Dade Hayes that read in part: “We have become increasingly concerned with inaccuracies and irregularities in the data reported by Nielsen.”

Nielsen replied with a post on its site Wednesday from CEO David Kenny pledging that the New York firm would “continue to provide the most representative, reliable and robust audience measurement available” as it worked to address the MRC’s concerns.

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He described them as panel sizes being too small and inadequately maintained, incomplete business-continuity and recovery planning, insufficient transparency with its methodology, and the addition of broadband-only homes to local markets along the lines of Nielsen’s practice with its national service.

Kenny explained that the pandemic had forced Nielsen to stop in-home visits and had exposed inadequate continuity planning for that, but it had since resumed those visits and revised those plans.

He further admitted that Nielsen was “not as fast nor were we as transparent as we could have been” in disclosing issues caused by canceling in-home visits but would work with the MRC to fix that.

Finally, while defending the addition of broadband-only homes, Kenny said it could have been more statistically robust: “We will work with the MRC to refine and audit universe estimates for weighting and sample controls, which will provide safeguards to ensure broadband only, cable and over-the-air homes are properly represented in our panel.”