Is Nielsen Losing to ComScore When It Comes to Counting Online Viewers?

For 66 years, the Nielsen ratings have been the go-to tool for advertisers and television networks.

And, per an Oct. 23rd, 2015 report in The Hollywood Reporter (the source for the illustration above), Neilsen still dwarfs all competitors in revenue and number of employees.

Nielsen is a legacy business. Almost since the birth of network television, Neilsen's "overnights" have been considered the gold standard for how many viewers were actually seeing a TV ad - and therefore how much money would change hands (the ad rates) for airing broadcast TV commercials in particular broadcast timeslots.

According to an April 26th, 2016 report in TheWrap, the era of Nielsen dominance may be ending.

"Last month, comScore (newly powerful, having merged with competitor Rentrak in Sept. of 2015) delivered its first ratings across digital and TV platforms. “We believe that the future belongs to comScore,” comScore President Bill Livek told TheWrap. Unlike Nielsen, which centers its data around age and gender, comScore provides much richer information, Livek maintained. Nielsen extrapolates its ratings from thousands of households that agree to have “people meters” measure their viewing habits. But comScore data comes from 40 million set-top boxes that cable operators include without most customers even knowing they’re there. ComScore combines that household data with demographic details about consumer behavior. And comScore performs better in areas where Nielsen is weak, according to critics, including measurement of local markets, cross-platform viewing, behavioral consumption habits, and lower-rated networks.“The other guys are currency around age and sex, we’re the currency around how people buy products,” [comScore's Bill Livek] said. “You can target [ad buys] a whole lot better and more efficiently.”"

How Neglected Independent Films (Released Under a Broken Theatrical Model) Inspired Beyoncé's 'Lemonade'

Reading the reviews in Indiewire and the New York Times of Beyoncé's 'Lemonade' that premiered on HBO on Saturday April 23rd, 2016, it's possible to overlook the 65 minute film's roots in independent filmmaking.

In an April 26th, 2016 piece for The New Yorker, Richard Brody explores how the American system of publicizing independently-financed films has failed to support distinctive filmmakers - like Julie Dash - whose 1991 film "Daughters of the the Dust" was one of the inspirations for Beyoncé's 'Lemonade', a visual-album that is itself a fascinating piece of filmmaking. 

As Richard Brody notes: "Part of the blame lies with critics—predominantly white critics—who paid no attention [to pioneering African-American woman Julie Dash, and indie films about the African-American experience like her Daughters of the Dust]. But part of the blame lies with a system of tacit complicity between critics and the industry that poses obstacles to the recognition of independent films."

Questions of real-life infidelity in Beyoncé's marriage seemed to dominate new reports - rather than the debt owed to indie filmmakers - when the music and the film of 'Lemonade' were released via the online streaming service Tidal (a company owned by Beyoncé's husband, Shawn "Jay Z" Carter) during the HBO premiere.

Initial reports suggested that after the HBO screening the only place to get 'Lemonade' would be on the subscription-based Tidal. But, as of April 25, 'Lemonade's' music and the film were also for sale on iTunes and Amazon. Amazon even has a preorder option available for a CD/DVD set, which will apparently include the "corresponding short film." 

The platforms that are offering the film of 'Lemonade' are in themselves a fascinating story for anyone interested in monetization of non-studio content. 

As is the enthusiastic response online - with users marketing 'Lemonade' through copious tweets:

Consider how in the past indie films struggled to get a one-week theatrical run in NY or LA - to merit a review in the leading papers and consideration for year-end awards.

To get a sense of how much Beyoncé might owe to prior filmmakers, take a look at the video below - put together by video essayist Nelson Carvajal - with excerpts from 'Lemonade' on the left set against excerpts from David Lynch's Mulholland Drive and Twin Peaks,Terence Malick's The Tree of Life, Pipilotti Rist's video installation Ever Is Over All, Cameron Jamie's dance short Massage The History, Jonas Mekas' found footage and Terence Nance's An Oversimplification Of Her Beauty.

VIDEO ESSAY: Film Fidelity: Beyoncé's "Lemonade" from Nelson Carvajal on Vimeo.

Currently, there is still no way to stream the film of 'Lemonade' online without a Tidal subscription. And there have been no plans announced for a theatrical release...

The Making of a Sitcom Episode With Prince

"Prince rarely, if ever, lost his vision. That wasn't because he was a magical, otherworldly being; it was because he was rigorous, and generous, and he knew how to fight for what he wanted. It was a beautiful, constant fight. It was love."

Thanks to writer/producer Liz Meriwether for her sweet recollection (published online by Vulture April 26th, 2016) of working with Prince - and his dedication to craft - on an episode of New Girl.

Randy Finch's Film Blog:

Thoughts from a film producer about making and distributing films.