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Digital Transformation Media Measurement Future of TV

Eager to dethrone Nielsen, Comscore accelerates MRC accreditation ask


By Kendra Barnett, Associate Editor

August 26, 2021 | 4 min read

In the midst of controversy surrounding the accuracy of Nielsen’s TV and video reporting — which has led the Media Rating Council to consider suspending the industry accreditation of the TV ratings and measurement giant — media measurement and analytics firm Comscore could be rising as a challenger.

Hand playing chess

Comscore, a Nielsen challenger, is trying to fast-track its MRC accreditation

What’s happening

● Comscore, media measurement and analytics company best known for providing film viewership data, has announced it is requesting that its own MRC audit, originally planned for early 2022, be moved up to no later than mid-October of this year.

● The move comes in the wake of accusations that Nielsen — long considered the authority on TV and video ratings and ad measurement — has been underreporting its viewership numbers. If the MRC agrees to reschedule the audit, it could accelerate accreditation for Comscore’s national and local television measurement services.

● The MRC will reportedly engage Comscore in the discussion and offer feedback as the company prepares to request accreditation. The organization will make an official announcement when it decides to pursue the audit.

Why it matters

● This summer, the Video Advertising Bureau (VAB), which represents the interests of the TV and premium video industry, petitioned nonprofit media accreditation and research firm Media Rating Council (MRC) to suspend Nielsen’s accreditation. The VAB filed a 10-page document outlining Nielsen’s alleged violations of five MRC minimum standards. Most importantly, the VAB said that Nielsen, facing operational challenges associated with the pandemic, had been systematically underreporting viewership numbers. As a result, countless advertising dollars were lost and ad measurement accuracy was skewed.

● Facing rising pressure, Nielsen proactively requested an MRC accreditation hiatus earlier this month. The VAB’s chief executive Sean Cunningham likened the move to saying, “You can’t fire me, I quit.” The decision was made just hours before the MRC accreditation suspension voting process was slated to begin.

● The scandal has sparked wider debates surrounding the accuracy, precision and reliability of traditional TV and video measurement tactics. Some experts worry about the legitimacy of Nielsen’s panel-based approach, especially as the connected television (CTV) and over-the-top media (OTT) space grows more complex and makes ad measurement ever-more challenging.

● As a part of this larger industry discussion, NBCUniversal announced Monday it has issued an RFP for innovative measurement solutions, soliciting more than 50 measurement vendors — including Nielsen. The company published a blog post urging the entire media industry to shift toward “measurement independence.”

● Nielsen is currently developing its Nielsen One product, which may help resolve some of the challenges of measurement inaccuracy. Kimberly Gilberti, the company’s senior vice-president of product management, previously told The Drum that the product is designed to ensure that “computation is being done in a way that is truly comparable” across channels. In essence, it aims to serve as a universal currency for cross-channel measurement in an increasingly fragmented media space.

● If the MRC grants Comscore an accreditation, the measurement and analytics company could edge out Nielsen as the definitive voice on TV and video measurement.

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