With television viewers’ habits rapidly changing, it’s been hard for the company that typically measures how TV shows and networks are performing, Nielsen, to keep up. For some 93 years, it’s effectively operated an unchallenged monopoly.

But that’s changing too.

According to the New York Times, Nielsen “is facing blistering criticism from TV and advertising executives who see it as a relic of television’s rabbit-ears past.”

Last month at the International CES Show in Las Vegas, NBCUniversal’s advertising chief, Linda Yaccarino, complained in front of a large crowd that Nielsen was failing to accurately measure total viewership for the company’s many programs.

“Imagine you’re a quarterback, and every time you threw a touchdown, it was only worth four points instead of six,” she told the audience.

The Times also points out that the ratings giant is also finally facing competition from other ratings providers. Two measurement firms, ComScore and Rentrak, this week completed their $768 million merger. ComScore has made in-roads in measuring how shows perform online, while Rentrak has pushed deep into Nielsen’s business in local markets.

One of the major complaints about Nielsen is that it fails to measure viewing of streaming services, such as Netflix, Amazon and Hulu. In fact, one head of a Nielsen home, Dennis Cheatham, said the paper diary the service asked him and his family to complete about their viewing habits didn’t even include a space to log time spent watching such digital outlets.

For its part, “We’re not arrogant about the landscape and about the needs of marketers and media companies and agencies to have better, more comprehensive data,” Steve Hasker, Nielsen’s global president and chief operating officer told the paper. “We’re much more focused on meeting those needs and executing against our road map than we are looking over our shoulder.”

It’s not like Nielsen isn’t trying. In the past year, the service has released nearly 70 product and technology expansions. Most recently, it released a new measurement called total audience metric that measures viewing across video on demand, mobile and streaming.

There’s also some question as to the relevance of even providing household and demographic ratings in a world in which advertisers also want to know viewers’ income, location, buying habits and other information.

Still, Nielsen is making a serious effort to remain relevant and competitive. Soon to depart: paper diaries.

Brief Take: The rumbling among television executives about Nielsen is growing ever louder. Now that there’s serious competition in this space, Nielsen will be forced to evolve or exit.

Read more: The New York Times


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