Nielsen Suspended by Accreditation Group — Accused of Under-Counting TV Viewers

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The once-venerable Nielsen TV ratings service has lost its accreditation from an oversight group after networks accused the company of under-counting TV viewers during the coronavirus pandemic.

On Wednesday, the Media Rating Council, which oversees metrics companies like Nielsen and comScore, said it was suspending Nielsen after it had found a “generally consistent pattern of underreporting of viewing” in the company’s reporting in February 2021.

In May, the Media Rating Council determined that Nielsen may have underestimated the total usage of TV in February by the valuable 18-to-49 age demographic by 2 percent to 6 percent.

Networks and other industry organizations have claimed Nielsen’s underreporting was more widespread.

There is “a heck of a lot of money” at stake, said Sean Cunningham, CEO of the Video Advertising Bureau, a trade group that represents TV networks to advertisers, in a statement to Variety. “There is the potential for a lot more understatement.”

The Video Advertising Bureau has contended Nielsen undercounted audiences during the height of the pandemic last year, creating an “exaggerated and inaccurate depiction of 2020 Covid TV usage declines.”

Congress created the Media Rating Council in the early 1960s, in response to the quiz show scandals of the late 50s. The objective was to ensure metrics for the media industry are reliable and valid.

In response to Nielsen’s losing its accreditation, comScore is attempting to accelerate its own accreditation with the Media Rating Council in an apparent attempt to seize more market share, according to a report from The Drum, a marketing and media industry news outlet.

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