CNBC is killing the messenger.
The financial cable news channel announced Tuesday that it will no longer use Nielsen’s ratings service to count people who watch its daytime business coverage. The move comes after a tough 2014 when CNBC delivered its lowest audience numbers -- an average of 175,000 viewers -- since 1995.
The NBCUniversal-owned channel has entered a deal with Cogent Reports, a market research company focused on the investment community, to get a more accurate read on the out-of-home audience that Nielsen does not count unless it’s a college dormitory. CNBC has long maintained that affluent viewers watching during stock market trading hours are mostly located at offices, trading floors, hotels, health clubs and restaurants.
The availability of financial news and information on the Internet has likely cut into the number of CNBC viewers that were being counted. Many of those at-home viewers are retirees who follow the channel to monitor their personal investments.
Cogent Reports surveys investment professionals on their media habits and attitudes toward financial brands. The company has never done TV audience measurement. Nielsen data is the standard currency when Madison Avenue negotiates deals for commercial time.
The financial network will continue to use Nielsen to measure its prime time lineup where its ratings story has been positive lately, thanks to repeats of the ABC reality hit "Shark Tank." The network’s average was up 109% year-to-year in the fourth quarter of 2014.
CNBC has already begun approaching advertisers about using the the Cogent Report numbers, according to Linda Yaccarino, president of sales for NBCUniversal. While agencies already buying time on the channel are likely taking into account the out-of-home audience that CNBC attracts, the Cogent Report ratings will provide “richer, more robust data” about who is watching the channel, where they watch, how much they earn and what they buy.
“We’ve gotten some good feedback,” Yaccarino said.
But advertiser habits are hard to change and selling off the new numbers will be a challenge for CNBC, according to Brad Adgate, senior vice president and director of research for the ad-buying firm Horizon Media.
“I think there will be a lot of questions about how the data is collected,” he said “I would think they would want to go through an audit process to lend some comfort to the advertising community. There is a lot of stuff that has to be worked out.”