Video Essentials

Nielsen Total Audience Ratings: The Challenge of Measuring CTV

Measurement lags behind viewing, and Nielsen is constantly playing catch-up. At the recent Video Marketing Power Summit, Nielsen vice president of media analytics Eric Ferguson explained that connected TV (CTV) viewing is the latest challenge. As online viewing moves to the living room in a big way, Nielsen Total Audience needs to work with partners to make sure all platforms are included.

Nielsen Total Audience

Eric Ferguson of Nielsen at the Video Marketing Power Summit

“Total Audience, which we introduced years ago, was in part response to our client requests which continue—we expect them to continue. In part, it’s really our own observation of the consumer. I think, just to concur with a lot of what you’re hearing on the panel, we don’t see any one platform in a vacuum. We don’t see any one business model in a vacuum,” Ferguson said.

Introduced in 2014, Nielsen Total Audience first had to struggle with desktop and mobile viewing. Now consumers want to stream to the biggest screen in the house. That means new hurdles for Nielsen, since each platform needs to be negotiated individually.

“Are we there yet? No. It’s a constant process,” Ferguson said. “Honestly, when it comes to mobile 5 years ago or CTV today, a lot of it requires collaboration in the entire ecosystem. When you have in that chart with 11 different devices, not including other, and 10 different manufacturers all comprising CTV, with all different devices and passing data it requires a massive coordination effort, not just Nielsen going it alone, and that’s what we’ve been up to for decades and years in terms of digital.”

Nielsen chart

Comprehensive CTV measurement is essential for the growth of online video advertising, but it’s not the only challenge. Once advertisers have cross-platform numbers they can trust, they’ll still need to be able to reach large enough audiences to make addressable advertising useful.

“We’re working on it, and I think I would also point to some of the more executional challenges,” Ferguson said. “Fragmentation, not just in device but in publisher. We started out talking about reach. One of the biggest challenges today, just to take CTV for reach, is scale. And I think your two companies [co-panelists The Trade Desk and YuMe] have done an excellent job in piecing together connected TV inventory to reach meaningful scales.”

For more on Nielsen Total Audience measurement and the challenges it faces, watch the full video below.


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