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Understanding Impact (Parallel) Local TV Data

Written by: Michael LaSardo | September 23, 2019


Important U.S. Treasury Announcement: 

Green dollar bills replaced with Purple dollar bills, effective next week. 

Imagine that?  

The green $1.00 bill is being replaced by a purple $0.90 bill. 

Our “Honest Abe” $5.00 bill will now become a plum purple $5.10 bill.

OK, this isn’t really happening.  But what if it was?  What would you do?

I bet you’d make sure you’re stocked up on purple cash.  You’d probably also want to educate yourself on the difference in values.

Well, this is sort of what happens when a local TV measurement company makes an adjustment to its measurement.  The currency you’ve used becomes altered and you need to adjust accordingly to prepare for future transactions.

Impact data.  Parallel data.

If you’ve been working with Nielsen local audience estimates anytime in the past few years, then you’ve certainly heard one of these interchangeable terms.  I’m sure you have questions too. 

What does this mean?  Why should I care?  What’s available?  How should I use it?  Can I post with this data?


Let’s break all of this down in a Q & A session.

Account Executive:  What is the difference between Impact data and Parallel data?

Michael LaSardo:  There is no difference.  They mean the same thing but are referenced differently depending on what vendor you use for buying & selling. (i.e. Strata, mediaocean, Hudson, etc.)

AE:  Ahh, ok.  So, let’s just call it Impact data for the rest of this interview.  What is Impact data exactly? 

ML:  Before Nielsen makes a significant change in its measurement, they test drive it.  They also let clients test drive it. 

AE:  How?

ML: Nielsen goes back to historical surveys and re-reports the audience estimates using the new proposed measurement technique.  This data is reported as a separate survey so that clients can compare the impact to the currency.  Both data streams represent the same programs, demos and period of time.  All the same statistics are available too:  Ratings, Shares, Impressions, Viewing Levels etc. The only difference between the Impact data and the currency data is the form of measurement. 

AE:  Can I use the Impact data to project and estimate future buys? 

ML:  Absolutely.  Once Nielsen gives the go-ahead and announces a change in currency effective date you should use the Impact data to negotiate any buys that start on or after that date.  You should also revisit any buys that were placed prior to the announcement.  Nielsen has given clients the go ahead for this latest batch of transitioning markets. 

AE:  Wait.  What?  Why should I re-rate buys that were already negotiated? 

ML:  Well, when you originally negotiated you didn’t know there was a change occurring.  All your original estimates used survey data that may not best represent what will be in place when it comes time to post. 

AE:  How should I do that?

ML:  Hypothetically, let’s say your flight is November 4 – November 15, 2019.  There’s a good chance you used Nov’18 survey data for your initial negotiation.  You should re-rate that buy using Nov’18 parallel data. 

AE:  And how about those future negotiations? 

ML:  For those, you should be using appropriate Impact surveys.  Just don’t mix methods! 

AE:  What do you mean?

ML:  For example, never project using Shares from a currency survey adjusted to viewing levels of an Impact survey.  It doesn’t make sense because you’re mixing measurement methods and your results will be wonky.  Plus, it’s not permissible by Nielsen!   

AE:  Can you be more specific?

ML:  Sure. Let’s say you’re negotiating 4Q 2019.  If you are projecting estimates using May’19 Shares and adjusting to the Nov’18 viewing levels, you need to make sure both surveys use the same measurement technique.  In this case, that’s May’19 Impact Shares X Nov’18 Impact PUTs.   

AE:  How about posting?  Can I use Impact data to post?

ML:  No.  You cannot and should not.  Again, it’s not permissible by Nielsen.  There is a good reason for that: your historical buys were not negotiated with this data so there’s no reason to post with it. 

AE:  What should I do if I’m presented with a post that utilizes Impact data? 

ML:  Let your buyer know that Nielsen does not permit the use of impact data for posting.  If you’re a Nielsen client, you can forward them Nielsen’s permissible uses document.  Your Research Department and Nielsen rep would be able to provide that to you.

AE:  What if I’m not a Nielsen client?

ML:  You could ask your buyer to please double-check that they are using appropriate data to estimate your avails. 

AE:  Gotcha.  So, what markets are going to be impacted by Nielsen’s next change in measurement?

ML:  The next set of changes will impact all 71 metered markets.  That’s 25 Local People Meter, 31 Set Meter, and 15 Code Reader. 

AE:  When will the change take place?

ML:  Thursday, October 3, 2019.  That means when the Oct’19 survey is released in November it will reflect these changes.  There will be no Impact book, just the one currency stream.

AE:  Let’s say I have the Oct’19 survey data and I wanted to see year-to-year performance. What historical survey should I look at? 

ML:  OK.  Oct’19 will only have one survey, which will be currency.  Those estimates are based on the new measurement.  If you want to accurately determine year-to-year performance within the same measurement, you need to compare to Oct’18 Impact.   

AE:  In a nutshell, how should I expect my ratings and impressions to be impacted? 

ML:  The changes are not as significant as what we saw when the 137 diary markets transitioned to RPD+ markets last year.  It’s important to look at this in a more granular way.  Impact will vary by market, by station, by daypart, by time period, by demo, and by survey.          

AE:  Earlier you mentioned that 71 markets were going to be affected by this change.  Can you just give me a high-level breakdown of how this shakes out?

ML:  Sure. 


Just to clarify, PPM is a Portable People Meter.  It will be used for in-home and out of home measurement.  Nielsen uses PPM on the audio side and is leveraging it in the 44 markets where it can.  That’s why some of the Set Meter markets are not integrating PPM. 

RPD is Return-Path-Data.  In this case, it’s DISH, DirecTV and Charter (where available). 

Finally, NPM is National People Meter.  These are People Meters that are already being used for national measurement.  Nielsen will leverage them locally to help further boost their sample sizes. 

AE:  What Impact surveys are available for me to negotiate with? 

ML:  Great question.  The availability varies by market type.  Here’s two cheat sheets that illustrate impact availability by market. 

Click here for the 44 markets integrating PPM.

Click here for the 27 markets integrating RPD and NPM.

AE:  Do any of these changes impact the delivery of overnights? 

ML:  Actually, yes.  It’ll take Nielsen a little longer to process data so there is going to be a delay in the release of overnights. 

Right now, preliminary Live+SD overnights are available between 7:00a-8:30a EST.  Effective Oct. 3, 2019, we won’t start seeing preliminary overnight data until 12:00p EST. 

  • The 25 LPM & 19 SM+PPM markets will release preliminary Live+SD results on a next day basis. However, the release will be a little later than we’re used to.  For example, you would see a Monday delivery approximately 12n on Tuesday.
  • The 12 Set Meter markets that are using RPD will release preliminary Live+SD results on next-next day basis. So, in this case, you won’t see a Monday delivery until Wednesday.
  • The 15 Code Reader markets will continue not to report on overnight basis unless you subscribe to NLTV.  Nielsen Local TV View (NLTV) is an online Nielsen tool that’s available as an added subscription to clients.  NLTV will have overnights available for Code Reader markets on a 3-day delay.  So, you won’t see a Monday delivery until Thursday.  Again, that’s only if you are a subscriber of NLTV.           

AE:  Is everyone aware of these changes? 

ML:  Nielsen has informed all their clients.  That includes stations and agencies. 

AE:  Sum it up for me.  What should I be doing?

ML:  The best things for you to do now, as a Nielsen client, is to review all Q4 2019 and Q1 2020 buys that were placed using the current currency data.  Re-rate them using the Impact data.   For all future negotiations, use Impact data.  It should help ensure that your posts are more in line with expectations.  Your Research department and Nielsen rep are great resources if you need guidance on how to go about doing this. 

AE:  Thanks for the rundown.  Sounds like I have some avails that need tweaking.

ML:  No problem.  Let me just leave you with one last visual on how Impact and Currency behave.  This is important when looking at data from a historical perspective.  And remember Impact is the same as Parallel.     

Impact vs Currency 2


Michael LaSardo is Vice President of Katz Television's Station Solutions team, the team responsible for driving positioning solutions for Katz Media Group’s 4000+ Radio and TV station partners nationwide. Michael began his local television research career in 2001 as Research Analyst at Millennium Sales & Marketing, a division of Katz Television Group. Since then he’s held positions of elevated responsibility, including Senior Research Analyst, Research Manager & Research Director. In 2014, he was named VP TV Station Solutions of Katz Television Group. As the group’s name suggests, TV Station Solutions tracks down solutions to a cornucopia of questions and issues on behalf of station clients, sellers and agencies. Michael leads the team in development of positioning pieces, presentations or reports as well as a variety of specialty analysis’. Michael is also a member of the Media Ratings Council.