Nielsen’s Plan to Replace Live Only Ratings with Live Plus Same Day

October 9, 2009 at 4:25 PM Leave a comment

A History of time shifted viewing

First tough, a little history: For years, Nielsen could not record any viewing that was considered “time-shifted”, that is, viewing done on DVRs such as Tivo.  Within the past five years, Nielsen was able to develop the technology to be able to record this data. Thus, they began releasing two sets of ratings – Live Only ratings (viewing done 100% live TV) and Live PLUS ratings (viewers had up to 7 days to watch recorded programs, and credit went back to the stations).  All in all, the Live Plus ratings were a flop.  Although stations enjoyed the boost in ratings due to Live PLUS,  a huge majority of advertising agencies simply refused to buy these ratings, giving excuses about their commercials being fast-forwarded, their big weekend sale happens before people would see their spot, etc. 

Although I have key research that refutes all of these points, agencies have refused to budge.  To pacify the growing discontent between stations and agencies on this point, Nielsen began releasing a ratings stream call “Live PLUS 3” – giving viewers THREE days to watch programming, rather than five.  Agencies continued to ignore this stream, and all this new ratings set served to do was frustrate research directors like myself with the very real possibility of drowning in data.

The winds are changing…a current discussion

In the past month or so, Nielsen has opened up a dialogue to stations and agencies about the possibility of getting rid of the Live Only ratings in favor of a NEW stream called Live Plus Same Day.  There are varied opinions on the subject (I’ve listed some I’ve found below), but here are my thoughts about how this could affect our station:

  • I completely support the move to replace the Live Only ratings with Live Plus Same Day because that would give our station at least some credit for the delayed viewing.  (emember, even when a viewer pauses a show briefly, or rewinds, etc, that show automatically is considered delayed viewing.    )  Research shows that on average, 53% of the delayed viewing for 8pm prime programs (and 42% of the delayed viewing for 9pm programs) occurs on the same day, so we would gain half of the DVR viewing ratings that we currently do not get credit for.
  • However, I am not sure how well our agency clients will accept this data. I am sure there is a huge uproar on the agency side about this, and the only way it will work on behalf of the stations will be if Nielsen discontinues the Live Only ratings stream altogether.  If that Live Only ratings still exist, then THAT will be the stream the agencies use, hands down.

Nielsen is planning on making this switch in the ratings in December 2009.

 Other Industry Opinions

I’ve gathered together what some key industry leaders on both side of the debate have to say:

“If someone delays a program for 33 seconds, it’s considered delayed. The playback audience is quite valuable and we need to be able to monetize it.” ~~~Kathleen Keefe, VP of Sales, Hearst Television (Media Week Magazine)

“We are very strongly opposed to it. It is a significant step backwards to what clients are demanding, which is more accountability. This will overestimate the audience, and we’ll pay for audiences that we are not getting. All of our contracts are based on live-only. They are not based on a delayed basis. We would be paying for exposures that are not generating commercial exposures.”  ~~~Rina Scanzoni, Chief Investment Officer, GroupM North America (MediaPost Media Daily News)

“With the growth of DVR penetration and usage, we can no longer evaluate the performance of programs simply based on ratings delivered the following day.” ~~~David Poltrack, Executive VP of Planning and Research, CBS (MediaPost Media Daily News)

“Live ratings are clearly in the client’s interest.  Live plus same day is in the stations’ interest and we know who pays the bill.  At the same time, we must acknowledge that as Janice Finkel Greene said, a couple of tenths are not going make a big difference.  But, the stations need all the help they can get and no one wants to look at what is really happening here.  Clients, however, will not come back to Spot TV if what they pay for doesn’t pay off.  It is the job of the agency to put the client’s money in the position of the greatest payoff – that’s Live.” ~~~Kathy Crawford, Project Reinvention member and former MindShare President/Local Broadcast (

“It’s pretty much universal that everyone wanted to see Live + Same Day. The people that we spoke to – stations, local cable, as well as agencies and advertisers – indicated that they would use the Live + Same Day to negotiate local TV time, for buying and selling of local TV time.” ~~~~ Sara Erichson, Nielsen’s President, Media Client Services, North America (

“Nielsen needs to stop producing Live Only data, which is at best meaningless and at worst misleading.  Many clients aren’t aware that Live Only excludes anyone who’s in front of a set that’s on, but is tuned to pre-recorded television content or content being viewed on a delayed basis of at least 25 seconds.   They don’t know that Live Only can’t tell an advertiser, programmer, scheduler, planner or buyer who and how many people or households RIGHT NOW are in front of a TV that’s on. They don’t know that Live Only can’t provide complete and accurate audience composition of a program or time period.  As I said before, Live Only is at best meaningless and at worst misleading, and will become even more so as DVR penetration continues to grow.”  ~~~~ Pat Ligouri, ABC O&O Stations SVP/Research & Electronic Measurement (


Entry filed under: Television.

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