Big Changes for Nielsen Local TV: Impressions vs Ratings

Posted on December 9th, 2021 by Vaughn Ericson

In January 2022, the Local TV industry begins the long-awaited currency shift from ratings to impressions. Several factors have led to this change:

  • The recent explosion of video delivery platforms to the TV screen
  • Nielsen’s change in local television universes to include broadband-only homes (BBO) in metered markets to be more inclusive of viewers from various TV sources
  • The industry’s desire to transact local TV on a cost-per-thousand impressions (CPMs) basis – a metric already utilized in most other traditional and digital channels 

Large station ownership groups have announced the formal change from ratings to impressions on the sell side beginning in January, and will guarantee delivery based on impressions only.

Nielsen announced recently that it will take the lead on an “Impressions First Initiative” to support an industry-wide move to impressions-based buying and selling in local markets across the country. The move to impressions will occur in conjunction with the integration of broadband only homes (BBO) into Nielsen’s local measurement metrics in January 2022. The move to an impressions-based currency will deliver a more complete, precise and representative audience measurement, along with the added benefit of enabling cross-platform audience measurement. In today’s fragmented media landscape, the move to impressions lays the groundwork for implementing Nielsen ONE across local, national, and digital measurement.

The inclusion of BBO homes will enable the industry to rapidly transition to trading on impressions. Impressions represent all viewers regardless of platform—which is especially important given the significant and growing penetration of BBO homes in local markets. For more than two years, Nielsen has been working with the media and advertising industries in preparation for the inclusion of broadband-only homes in Local TV measurement for its 56 LPM and Set Meter markets.

DEFINITION: A Broadband-Only (BBO) home has at least one TV set able to deliver streaming video from an internet source, with no TV sets able to receive a channel from a traditional cable, satellite, or over-the-air source.

What does this mean for you?

Throughout time, local broadcast ratings have provided a consistent measure of advertising exposure across markets with different universes/populations. Moving forward, impressions will reflect potential exposure in terms of viewers rather than a percentage of viewers. Our Activation Strategists will still be able to look at reach metrics to ensure consistency by market. 

The Client and Activation Strategy teams at True Media are working together to provide clients with an understanding of the impact of these changes. For clients with a history of ratings-based planning and buying in local markets we will still be able to convert impressions to ratings. However with this change in the local TV universes to include BBO homes, post-change ratings will not be comparable to today’s ratings. Likewise, historical CPPs will not apply to future planning. All negotiations and guarantees will be based on impressions moving forward.