Local TV Measurement Catches Up with Consumer Behavior

After I joined Ciceron in 2019, one of the first conversations I had with Ashley Evenson, Ciceron’s director of emerging media and ad solutions, a truly digital native, revolved around gross rating points, or the GRP. As a traditional media planner who cut his teeth in broadcast and print, calculating GRPs was one of the first lessons that I was taught. 

As I was laying out the relationship between TV households, percent of total audience reach, and frequency, she made a face and said, “Wait. So a GRP is an estimate, based on the highest potential viewership? And you are only 90% guaranteed? And if you are lucky, reporting is based on a very small sample size of people with a box in their house and extrapolated out from there? If you are unlucky, it is determined by what people write in a diary?

“The whole thing is based on estimates and shaky math,” she added, “How does that make any sense?”

I … didn’t have an answer for her.  

And let’s be honest: it is a bad system from a different time that is completely incapable of meeting the rapid change in consumer behavior. As digital adoption has grown, so too has the demand for transparency. That, plus the growing consumer trend of cord-cutting or cord-shaving, shined a bright light on just how inaccurately current viewing habits were being captured. TV measurement needed to evolve to keep up with the times. 

In late 2020, Nielsen announced that they would be updating their local TV measurement to include broadband-only (BBO) homes. Now, it would be able to measure and report on offerings like YouTube TV, Hulu, Sling, AT&T, Peacock… The list goes on and on. Basically, any service that allows consumers to watch broadcast TV through an internet connection will be measured. This rollout will begin to hit markets as early as April 1, 2021. 

This is huge. 

Not only will TV household estimates actualize, but the TV networks themselves will expect to see a more accurate impression count vs. what is currently being reported on. 

It isn’t all sunshine and roses, though. Because household estimates are expected to increase, and those estimates have a direct correlation with how GRPs are calculated, stations are likely to see GRP under-delivery on deals that were negotiated and secured prior to this new reporting methodology. It isn’t their fault. The terms of the buy were set using bad data. For a long, long time.

There is also a lack of guidance on how networks should post schedules moving forward, causing many stations to revisit their own methodology. I anticipate that many local stations will move away from negotiations and reporting that are based on GRPs, and move to impressions. Timing for delivery on final reporting will also likely be shortened, as stations no longer need to wait for Nielsen’s published books, released upward of six-weeks after month’s end. 

As with all changes in 2021, it may be a little bumpy to start, but ultimately, this change is long overdue. Clients who use Local TV will be the biggest beneficiaries of this change because of the increased accuracy of the reporting. Additionally, in using Impressions as the single measure of success, Local TV reporting will now use the same KPIs as all other digital video media vehicles. 

Better data. Better reporting. Leading to better insights.

I’m on board.