The Media Rating Council in the United States has suspended accreditation of the Nielsen National and Local rating services. It follows complaints from networks about possible undercounting of viewers during the coronavirus pandemic due to difficulties in maintaining the panel of measurement homes. Nielsen has promised to do better.

Established in 1963, the Media Rating Council is a non-profit industry association comprised of leading media companies, advertisers, agencies, and trade associations, which aims to ensure measurement services are valid, reliable and effective.

The MRC has said that panel size and maintenance need to return to target levels, and business continuity and recovery processes need to be strengthened and tested.

The MRC board of directors voted to suspend its accreditation of the Nielsen National Television service and the Local People Meter and Set Meter Markets services.

“While we are disappointed that the situation has come to this, we believe these are the proper actions for the MRC to take at this time,” said George Ivie, the chief executive of the MRC. “MRC’s Board of Directors, which represents an extremely broad range of industry constituencies, and includes advertisers, agencies, and media companies of all types, is strongly unified in its positions on these matters. MRC stands committed in our willingness to work with Nielsen toward the goal of being able to restore accreditation to these important services at the earliest possible time, and it is our hope that Nielsen likewise will continue to engage with MRC and its clients in pursuit of that goal.”

The Video Advertising Bureau, a trade group of broadcasters and advertisers, has been critical of the performance of Nielsen, contending that its measurement panel significantly undercounted audiences during the coronavirus pandemic.

Sean Cunningham, the chief executive of the VAB, said the decision from the MRC “must be seen by Nielsen as a loud change-or-die challenge.” He said that all measurement and currency providers should see this as mission critical. “Advertisers should expect to see more innovation in the next three years in video measurement and currency than what was achieved in the last 30 years,” he said. “Time has officially expired on friction and frustration.”

While other providers may hope to provide alternative measurement systems, Nielsen numbers are still likely to be used as a common currency. Nielsen is developing a new cross-platform measurement system, Nielsen ONE, but it could take some time to be implemented and to receive accreditation.

In a letter to clients, David Kenny, the chief executive of Nielsen, wrote: “Rest assured, we will continue to provide the most representative, reliable and robust audience measurement available, which the market can continue to trade on with confidence.”

He said that Nielsen was focussed on evolving its measurement in four areas, to reflect how people are truly consuming media, ensure inclusion and representation of all people in audience measures, enable true comparability across all platforms, and embrace the most advanced data science.