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Nielsen Addresses Missed Headphone Listening

September 2, 2020

We all know that every quarter-hour is precious.

Ever since PPM became currency, many broadcasters felt that listening on both the market and individual station levels was being underreported because PPM did not adequately capture headphone listening. While the PPM device comes with a headphone adapter, it is generally believed that most panelists don’t use it. In addition, some of the headphone usage is now wireless, which is not compatible with the adapter.

On September 1, Nielsen announced a way to incorporate missed headphone listening into the PPM estimates. This will result in a boost in total market listening of 2% to 5%. We’ll first see this impact with the October survey.

Both streams that are 100% simulcast and thus TLR (total line reported), and those that offer differing programming (usually different commercials) on their OTA and stream, will see a positive effect. For stations to get this boost, the station’s stream must be encoded.

So how is PPM capturing headphone listening? Actually, it’s not. Nielsen’s various studies have shown a relationship between streamed listening captured by the PPM device, typically through standard speakers or smart speakers, and streamed listening through non-OTA devices. They will use modeling to estimate missed headphone listening, and incorporate it into the PPM reports. Depending on the market, this new methodology could boost streamed listening estimates by 50% to 70%, or on average 61%.

So what does this mean to radio stations?

As stated earlier, overall market listening will be lifted between 2% and 5%. That overall listening will have a positive impact on stations whose streams are encoded. Those stations whose streams already have significant reported listening because the PPM device is capturing a significant amount of listening to their encoded streamed signal will see the biggest boost.

Nielsen showed that, of the 301 stations examined, the new methodology resulted in a 0.1 increase in AQH rating on a total week basis for 14 stations. I believe that even more stations will see a lift when examined on a daypart basis. An increase of 0.1 AQH rating in a single prime daypart leads to an increase in rates. Again, every-quarter hour is precious.

Most likely this new procedure will be welcomed by the industry, as it will better reflect true radio listening on both a station and market basis.

If you have any questions about Nielsen’s new methodology, or would like to talk about how this impacts your station, please reach out to us here.

-Charlie Sislen, Partner