Nielsen and ESPN strike partnership to measure OOH video viewing

Nielsen has today (April 10) announced that ESPN is the first broadcaster to sign up to its measurement tool that helps it measure audience viewership out-of-home (OOH), this an increasingly important function for media owners given the rise of both linear viewing away from the living room.

ESPN claims sports audiences are moving towards viewing content across a variety of venues

The significance of the deal may have more depth than is initially apparent, according to influential media industry analyst Brian Wieser.

The announcement of the partnership marks the roll out of Nielsen’s national OOH reporting service, and lets TV networks working with the measurement outfit establish how many viewers watched their content live both at home, as well as those viewing on-demand services for up to seven days after the initial broadcast.

Those subscribing to the newly launched service will receive individual day data for program, and commercial audience estimates on a weekly basis, with the OOH element of the service captured using Nielsen’s Portable People Meter (PPM) offering.

Measuring the incremental uplift

This provides clients, such as broadcasters, cable networks, sports leagues and media agencies, with insights that quantifies the incremental audience that out-of-home viewing delivers, according to Nielsen.

The OOH reporting service leverages Nielsen's PPM technology from nearly 77,000 installed panelists, providing data from 44 local US TV markets, which Nielsen claims enables it to project TV viewership across 65% of the household population across the country.

Nielsen claims this enables it to measure linear TV viewership in venues such as bars, restaurants, hotels, gyms and second homes, etc, and therefore quantify the ratings lift produced by TV viewing from outside of the home.

In a press release announcing the update, Ed Erhardt, ESPN’s president, global sales and marketing, described the step as “significant” when it comes to creating a live audience metric and subsequently proving extended reach to its advertisers.

He said: “Way before TV was multi-platform, it was multi-place – especially for millions of sports fans.”

Also quoted in the release, was Lynda Clarizio, Nielsen’s president of US Media, she added: “This service will allow ESPN and other networks to quantify the incremental lift that OOH viewing brings to their ratings… As consumers routinely watch television outside of their own homes, whether in a bar during a big game or in a hotel or elsewhere, it's imperative to capture that viewing.”

What is the significance of the tie-up?

In a subsequent advisory note issued in the immediate aftermath of the announcement by Brian Wieser, a senior research analyst specializing in the media industry at Pivotal Research, he said the move was likely to have little immediate financial impact for Nielsen. Although, he did claim that the value in the product roll out lies elsewhere, especially given the identity of Nielsen's first OOH client.

“The agreement with ESPN demonstrates Nielsen’s capacity to develop and launch a new ratings product and potentially reduces the likelihood that Disney management may attack the quality of other Nielsen products in the near future,” he wrote.

For Wieser, advertisers and media owners would likely have factored this shift in audience viewership into their pricing arrangements, as well as agreements on how much inventory to buy on different platforms.

“Previously established pricing commitments will likely have been made on the in-home-only estimates, and baseline CPMs would probably need to be ratcheted down before marketers who would be willing to use the OOH data would accept it as part of the currency they trade on,” he added.

“For other marketers, comparability against other networks will be more important, meaning that lowest-common-denominator (in-home-only) metrics will retain their importance.”

An up-tick for Nielsen

The agreement likely has more of an up-side for Nielsen, especially since ESPN-owner Disney has historically been a vocal critic of the measurement outfit’s capabilities, according to Wieser.

He went on to say: “While the financial impact of networks subscribing to OOH ratings will not likely alter the company’s existing revenue trajectory, we note that Disney has been one of Nielsen’s more vocal detractors over the past couple of years.

“With this agreement, Disney may have less of interest in attacking Nielsen, as those attacks could impact the credibility of the data that Disney will now be encouraging marketers to use.”

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