Amazon and Nielsen are cozying up together in a move that potentially changes how TV ratings are measured, according to Variety.
Nielsen, long an independent source of viewership data in the TV world, wants to incorporate data from Amazon to help it calculate the number of people who watch Amazon Prime Video’s stream of “Thursday Night Football” this season, according to the report. Nielsen confirmed in a letter to Video Advertising Bureau CEO Sean Cunningham that it will start incorporating first-party data beginning with Amazon, but that it would work with others as well.
The partnership opens the door to questions from the TV networks that Amazon’s data adds an element of bias to Nielsen’s data that benefits the online retailer. Nielsen’s ratings are used by the TV networks and streamers to gauge the reach of its shows and how much money they can command for ads that run against them. Having higher ratings than your rivals is also a point of pride for the networks and proof of their influence at a time when more consumers are watching subscription streaming services or free ad-supported online channels.
The rise of streaming services, however, has meant that it’s been harder for Nielsen to rely on its traditional methods to get a sense of the ratings. The report noted that Nielsen’s own method of using panels and surveys found that the audience for last season’s “Thursday Night Football” games were 18% smaller than Amazon’s own calculation. TV networks are concerned Amazon’s contribution to the data could put them at a disadvantage.
Sean McManus, chairman of CBS Sports, blasted the arrangement.
“Anything that is not impartial and unbiased is unacceptable to us,” he said on a call reported by Barrett Media. “I must say that we think it’s extremely odd and unfortunate that different rules are suddenly applying to one platform, and I’ll leave it at that.”
The Media Ratings Council, another independent group made up of media and advertising industries, is looking into Nielsen’s use of Amazon data. It could approve the partnership today.
Variety noted that the networks themselves had tried to influence Nielsen with their own data before, although that ultimately didn’t work. Nielsen said it had been in discussion for years with other clients regarding their first-party data.
A spokesman for MRC declined to comment. Amazon couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.