Is Nielsen Failing TV Networks?

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Executives have attributed the ratings drop on the system, claiming it does not accurately capture how television viewing has changed. Les Moonves, chief executive of CBS, argued this point in the company’s third quarter conference call last week. He stated that viewers are watching more content than ever, but they are increasingly time-shifting.

“Because more and more people are absorbing content, we’re going to get paid more and more,” Moonves also said. But as the Financial Times reported on Sunday, an increase in content viewing across varied platforms does not necessarily mean an increase in advertising revenue. Advertising buyers contend that they have already paid for this viewership.

The current ratings system used by the industry was adopted in 2007. Under this system, known as “Commercial Ratings,” commercial viewership is measured up to three days after it is aired. Now, television executives want the measurement to span a seven-day period, setting the stage for a overhaul in the way the value of television commercials is determined.

Bob Iger, the chief executive of Disney, has a slightly different take on the ratings debate. “The other story is that there seems to be somewhat of an absence of what I’ll call new, big, real, buzz-worthy hits,” he said to the Times. “Because of that, I would say that it would be premature to either write the epitaph or suggest we’re seeing a trend.”

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