Nielsen's Kelly Abcarian on Expanding Local Measurement Capabilities

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With the recent announcement of the addition of Comcast set-top box data to Nielsen's data arsenal, there has been a dramatic expansion of Nielsen's local measurement capabilities.  Kelly Abcarian, Senior Vice President, Nielsen Product Management, has been on the frontlines of these efforts.  I had the opportunity to sit down with her and ask her the following questions.

Charlene Weisler:  What promptedNielsento add set-top box (STB) data to their local measurement?

Kelly Abcarian:  We've always believed in the power and strength of big data.  Set-top box integration has been part of our overall strategy of incorporating large "census like" data into our services and products.  We are changing all 210 markets of local TV measurement over the next 12 months by bringing the scale and granularity to our measurement that our clients need as audiences continue to fragment across screens.

Weisler:  What does Comcast add to the measurement potential if previous STB data sets have already been modeled into the measurement?  Why add more?

Abcarian:  With Comcast's addition, Nielsen now has the largest set-top box data set of any supplier.  We have partnerships with multiple providers to deliver us the breadth and depth of data across all markets.  For Nielsen, it is not about the number of households, as once you get past a certain high threshold, the value of each additional household is diminished.  It is much more about the quality of the data, methodology and variety of sources; and critical for local is making sure locality or true local information is included, not just modeled down from a national view.

Weisler:  How granular will all of this data be particularly in smaller markets size 71+?

​Abcarian:  Advertisers and media owners will have consistent daily electronic measurement for all markets every day of the year.  With consistency in measurement and larger sample sizes, clients can dig deep with custom data segments or geographic areas or go big and look across markets that match the media plan for the advertiser.

Weisler:  Is there a plan to match local measurement capabilities to national -- that is, daily overnights for some, if not all, markets?  If so, when?  If not, what will be offered, especially to smaller markets?

Abcarian:  We will still produce daily data with a one-day delay in markets we do today.  We will shift to next-day reporting for any overnight markets with set-top-box data.  Former diary markets will receive data monthly and with granularity at the daily quarter-hour level.  Eventually we would like to provide data within 48 hours to all 210 markets, but it will require close collaboration with our data partners to be able to provide this to all markets.

Weisler:  What is the status of code readers​ in diary markets to measure over-the-air (OTA)​?  Will STB data be incorporated?

Abcarian:  OTA homes can account for 10-65 percent of a station's audience for news and sports alone, depending on the network.  Simply having a home in every zip code does not mean the ratings are representative or reflective of this growing, important viewing segment.  Remember that OTA is not available with set-top box data.  Nielsen meters are being rolled out across the 140 markets (15,000 TV audience meters in approximately 7,000 homes) that will be directly targeting OTA homes to provide a projectable measurement source for all OTA viewing occurring in the local markets.

The installation of these electronic meters will address viewing gaps and provide the truth-set needed to address the limitations of solely using STB data for audience measurement and also deliver actual persons-level viewing.  The meters will be concentrated on specific types of homes, specifically OTA, and will have known demographic and TV viewing information, allowing Nielsen to project audience estimates for over-the-air tuning.

Weisler:  Where do you see local measurement in the next two years?

Abcarian:  Consumers will have new devices, new ways of engaging with content, new behaviors both in and outside of the home that will be important to continue to measure.  As technology evolves and new broadcast standards like ATSC 3.0 become more prominent, new big data sources from smart TVs, connected devices and other devices will enable interactive advertisements, audience-based buying, addressable and many other enhancements.

Full electronic measurement will be in place across the entire ecosystem in the next 12 months, ensuring continued quality of this data as it evolves from STB tuning behavior to smart TV to virtual reality.  We will also have the capabilities to understand audience changes in real time with our Nielsen Marketing Cloud across a wide spectrum of marketing execution platforms such as search, social media, email, video, mobile and OTT.  It will analyze real-time streams of anonymous audience data and instantly adapt segments to reflect changes in consumer media and buying behavior, movement in the consumer path-to-purchase, audience composition across millions of consumer attributes (including demographics, geography, behavior, personality) and market dynamics (including seasonal and local market demand, competitive actions, advertising).

Two years from now, advertisers will be able to purchase more traditional TV programmatically and their efforts will be supplemented with product purchase data and demos.  And, as long as we remember to keep the consumer at the center and connect media exposure with buying behavior, this industry will continue to grow.  Ultimately, this is what matters most to the advertiser -- what combinations of media choices drive optimal sales results.

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