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Digital Video Ratings: Cross-Screen Battle

The Digital Video Ratings Battle: Nielsen vs. comScore

August 25th, 2016   ||    by Melanie Brown

The battle for cross-screen measurement dominance has begun. Earlier this year, the merger between Rentrak and comScore promised to give the decades-long incumbent Nielsen a run for its money in the race to the top of cross-screen measurement. Ratings for both digital video and linear television have been tackled separately by the companies, but as the landscape increases for video consumption, analytics have had to keep up.

Nielsen, of course, has been the longstanding currency for television ratings, despite coming under considerable fire in recent years regarding data inaccuracies and an inability to measure other kinds of video. comScore, prior to the merger, was widely used in the industry as a purely digital measurement company. Now, both audience measurement giants are striving for a comprehensive solution to the ratings gap.


Nielsen’s Total Audience product, announced in October of 2015, promises to evolve the way the industry looks at ratings. By incorporating cross-screen viewership data with its traditional television ratings, the idea is to give advertisers complete insight into their full advertising footprint.

While Nielsen has all this data from linear television, digital video, Set-top-box VOD, and DVR viewing, their fully “syndicated” product is slated to be released later this year. That will include analysis and evaluation of not only a single advertiser’s own campaigns across all screens, but also an overview of everyone else’s viewing data. This will come in the form of “Total Ad Ratings” and “Total Content Ratings,” according to MediaPost.

The company is hoping for a leg-up on comScore, as the historical favorite for viewership ratings when it comes to television content. However, the industry standard is facing several challenges with releasing the new Total Audience product—most notably the adoption of Nielsen’s software across all viewing platforms. Nielsen’s TV panel has been in place for what seems like an eternity, but that’s only one part of the new Total Audience measurement.

Nielsen’s next challenges will be providing ratings for video, audio, and text, and making those ratings comparable to what is already in place with linear television. That way, media exposure can be measured across platforms.


While comScore may not be as established as Nielsen, its new cross-screen product promises to incorporate television viewing data with the digital video and app content metrics that comScore has come to be known for.

Already a powerhouse in digital measurement, comScore’s new merger with Rentrak has provided the last piece of the puzzle, and the platform, now dubbed Xmedia, is poised to give Nielsen a run for its money. comScore’s new product will provide “person-level reporting” across screens to provide more exact data than the industry has seen traditionally, according to an article from AdvertisingAge earlier this year.

Key to comScore’s data sets is its “Total Home Panel,” which measures across all connected devices in the home. The system is slated to measure upwards of 300,000 internet-connected devices by the end of 2016. It will link advanced demographics, beyond the traditional age and gender, to exact programming, mobile app usage, and website visits across screens.

The Bottom Line

Nielsen and comScore are gearing up for the ultimate cross-screen battle.

With both platforms now able to measure and report on linear TV and digital video, the rollout coming into this television season should be fun to watch.

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