As reported in Variety, NBC research chief Alan Wurtzel recently showed that traditional Nielsen TV ratings missed a lot of non-traditional viewing from things like DVRs, gaming consoles, and devices like Roku.
Mr. Wurtzel determined that Nielsen missed a minimum of 27% of one show’s premiere audience. (See graphic below.)
The problem is that both Nielsen’s radio and television audience measurement technologies have not kept up with the new ways people listen to radio and watch television.
Radio listening is now across multiple devices and delivery platforms, yet local radio is measured as if this were still the 1970s.
The majority of listening is still by way of analog radio. However, other alternatives are growing.
Office workers listen to streams on their computers. Others listen on their mobile devices.
Consequently, a growing proportion of local radio is not being measured.
We’ve now learned that PPM is sensitive to content and that the nature of content can have an impact on how accurately PPM captures radio exposure.
The problem is that this missed listening is on top of these other issues.
According to Triton Digital, listeners consumed over 240 million hours of streamed broadcast radio in September, and that’s only counting fifteen radio groups.
Yet were Nielsen PPM estimates to be believed, fewer than a dozen stations in PPM markets had enough on-line listening to qualify for the September book.
Nielsen encodes the streams of broadcast radio stations, but that does not mean that the service can accurately measure exposure to these encoded stations.
Streaming and HD Radio both depend on digital algorithms (codecs) to compress content in order to reduce bandwidth. Compression essentially lowers content density.
Less dense content translates into less masking material to allow the encoder to insert codes.
Nielsen acknowledges this by warning broadcasters about aggressive compression. The company’s streaming guidelines warn that excessive compression poses:
Risks from both the streamer and the listener that may detract from the efficiency of the stream’s PPM encoding.
“Efficiency” is an interesting euphemistic term. What Nielsen is saying is that streaming codecs can prevent the encoder from encoding.
It’s an admission that on top of PPM’s programming dependent deficiencies, there can be digital compression deficiencies that reduce the accuracy of PPM estimates.
Do this simple test to better understand what’s happening.
Replace one of your songs with a MP3 copy and watch your Voltair meter. You’ll see all those green bars turn to red. That’s how PPM reacts to a codec.
But the problems don’t stop there.
Over 70% of streamed listening is consumed on mobile devices.
Remember those famous words: “If you can hear the station, the meter can hear the station”?
Is that really true with mobile devices?
To be continued.