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.”"

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