Jan 23, 2024 - Business

Exclusive: Fox renews multiyear measurement deal with Nielsen

Illustration of a hand measuring a play button

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Nielsen has inked a multiyear measurement deal with Fox Corp., Nielsen CEO Karthik Rao told Axios, marking an important step in ensuring it remains relevant with the country's biggest TV networks.

Why it matters: Despite the hype and investment around new measurement alternatives, the country's biggest TV networks and streamers rely on Nielsen to measure viewership.

Driving the news: The new deal ensures that Nielsen's ratings will be used to measure viewership across Fox's live cable TV and sporting events, as well as its broadcast games and shows.

  • Rao told Axios in an interview that the agreement represents how much the industry still trusts Nielsen, despite investments in new rivals.

Between the lines: The Fox deal is especially notable considering that executives were critical of Nielsen for its effort last year to incorporate Amazon's first-party data into its livestreaming measurement practices, arguing the deal made Nielsen impartial.

The big picture: The pandemic-driven shift to streaming forced TV companies to find new measurement alternatives faster than expected.

  • The availability of cheaper investment capital at the time made it easier for newer upstarts like iSpot.tv and VideoAmp to raise lots of money to grow their businesses.
  • Those two firms have inked many deals with traditional TV companies, but none with the biggest networks exclusively.
  • VideoAmp's CEO stepped down earlier this month at the same time that the company said it would cut 20% of its workforce. The firm has been pushing to reduce expenses for months after taking on heavy debt.

Zoom out: In a note to staff sent Tuesday, Rao said the Fox agreement is the latest in a string of 30 contract renewals that the firm has inked in the past six months, including networks like Hallmark and smaller local broadcasters, a source confirmed to Axios. Nexstar and Nielsen have reached an agreement in principle for a deal soon.

  • Deals with other major networks like Disney and Warner Bros. Discovery don't come up for renewal soon.

Be smart: In addition to Fox, Nielsen also renewed its deal with NBCUniversal last year, sources told Axios.

  • Although NBCUniversal parent Comcast publicly confirmed its Nielsen renewal deal last summer, NBCU never did.
  • When asked to confirm, a spokesperson wouldn't provide comment on the deal or confirmation even though NBC Sports, Peacock and Telemundo have publicly attributed viewership numbers from Nielsen recently.

Between the lines: NBCUniversal was one of the biggest TV companies to join in the creation of a joint industry committee (JIC) last year that is building new measurement standards for the streaming era.

  • Because the JIC favors big data over panels, the formation of the group was seen as an industry affront to Nielsen, which has yet to join the committee.
  • "We're not fond of it," Rao told Axios, while noting that Nielsen has had conversations with the JIC. "We have no objections at all for its purpose," he said, but rather "transactability," or whether their standards actually work.
  • Nielsen lost its accreditation for its national TV ratings during the pandemic, when it was harder to collect in-person panel data, but regained it last April.

What to watch: One group that has no intention of exploring Nielsen alternatives at this point is the NFL.

  • The League, which has been supportive of Nielsen's plan to integrate Amazon's data in its livestream ratings, has been working closely with Nielsen for the last 18 months to help it modernize its ratings system, sources familiar with the conversations told Axios.

Go deeper: Nielsen's dominance continues

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