Big advertisers, angry that fearful TV networks have thrown a spanner in the works of America’s big new cross-platform video measurement system, may take out their frustration in the upcoming TV ad sales upfront season.

That is according to one ad agency man who represents brand clients.

In this video interview with Beet.TV, Omnicom Media Group chief research officer Jonathan Steuer complains about Nielsen’s Total Audience Report solution. It was due to begin reporting cross-platform viewing of TV and digital content using a single metric from March 1, but it has been delayed again after key client NBC Universal dubbed it “bad, inaccurate and misleading”.

“We’re very frustrated by the fact that access to Total Audience is going to be gated by whether the networks and folks actually being measured like the data that they’re seeing,” Steuer says.

“I understand a sea change is tough for their business. But I can only assume, from the rapid response on the networks’ part and the fact that we’ve now delayed this, that there must be something there that the networks didn’t want to see – which just makes our buy-side clients that much more worried about whether what they’re getting is accurate.

“The fact that buyers won’t get to see it before the upfronts this year puts us a bit more on edge, wanting to find other solutions to fill in the gaps in the meantime. That’s hard to do – but we need an answer.”

If Steuer’s views represent those of other agencies and their clients, the industry has a problem. They are eager to know whether TV companies really are seeing as big a drop-off in viewing as available linear-only numbers suggest – or whether some of those audiences are being retained by networks’ digital offshoots. Steuer fears NBC Universal’s intervention suggests they have something to hide.

But the concerns run deeper than what is just the latest delay to the latest iteration of US TV measurement methodology. For Steuer, it is just a symptom of the way US TV measurement has been structured for years. He prefers the approach in other countries, like Canada.

“We have a competitive environment for measurement and there they have a planed joint industry committee,” he tells Beet.TV.

“They’re approaching that integration (of set-top box and return-path data is) in a coordinated way. Though it’s taken longer to get to market there, they will end up with perhaps a more comprehensive solution than we’re on trajectory to have here in the US, because all the providers have an incentive to participate and everyone’s on an equal footing.

“In the US, every video provider has different rules about what data they’re willing to provide, who they’re willing to provide it to and at what level of granularity.”

Kantar Media CEO has also told Beet.TV that the joint-committee structures of TV audience measurement in other countries around the world, as well as the relatively smaller size of the TV ad markets there, mean some other markets are successfully deploying cross-screen measuremernt more quickly and effectively than America.

Omnicom’s Steuer tells Beet.TV: “From the advertisers’ side, I certainly would like it better if everybody was on the same footing. I hope that happens here in the States eventually.”

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