CBS lashes out at Nielsen amid contract renewal impasse

CBS
CBS said it’s open to signing a fair deal with Nielsen that makes “financial sense for CBS” but warned that it was also open to working with Nielsen competitors. (Ben Munson/FierceVideo)

CBS and Nielsen have not been able to reach a new agreement for TV audience measurement in 2019, and now CBS is going public with criticism of the ratings company.

CBS issued a statement about the need for complete measurement across all platforms and accused Nielsen of not doing enough to meet those needs.

“While Nielsen has made some strides in this area, progress has not been what we and many clients would like, and local TV measurement is particularly challenged,” CBS said. “Despite this backdrop, Nielsen continues to use their market power to bundle disparate services and raise prices for services that don’t sufficiently address ongoing changes in the industry.”

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CBS said it’s open to signing a fair deal with Nielsen that makes “financial sense for CBS” but warned that it was also open to working with Nielsen competitors.

“If we cannot come to an agreement with Nielsen, we will continue to employ the many viable alternatives available to us, including Comscore,” CBS said.

RELATED: Nielsen's troubles mount as NBCU takes shot at its new measurement product

Nielsen said negotiations with CBS are still on track.

“We have an open negotiation with CBS and expect to arrive at a mutually beneficial agreement,” the company said in a statement.

Brian Wieser, senior analyst at Pivotal Research Group, responded shortly after reports of the CBS-Nielsen contract impasse surfaced and said it's unlikely that any broadcast television station group could drop Nielsen entirely.

"It remains a commercial near-impossibility for any station group to go without Nielsen’s data in major markets for more than a short period of time, as their ability to negotiate and capture market share from advertisers would be severely hampered if they do so," Wieser wrote in a research note.

CBS is not the first major broadcaster to lash out at Nielsen for its audience measurement products.

In December 2016, according to the Wall Street Journal, Linda Yaccarino, chairman of advertising sale at NBCUniversal, sent a letter to the ratings agency expressing “deep concerns” over what she called an “incomplete and inconsistent” Total Content Ratings product. Specifically, she called out the product’s limited involvement from pay TV operators and incomplete OTT measurement that at the time omitted Hulu, which is part owned by Comcast/NBCUniversal.

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