CONFIRMED: Ransomware attack hits OzTam ratings

Mystery has surrounded the delay in daily TV ratings, but now the source of the disruption has been revealed.

Channel 7 have missed a PR opportunity due to a lack of ratings data (image – Seven)

Nielsen, the data provider to OzTam, has been the subject of ransomware attack on its servers. Attacks like this are designed to extract money from companies in return of their data.

TV Networks have been without official ratings results for two days now, which can affect advertising revenue. Nielson has confirmed the attack to TV Blackbox saying:

Nielsen has become aware of an unexpected disruption relating to the Australian TV Audience Measurement (TAM) data centre environment. This disruption is derived from a ransomware attack in which Nielsen was the victim.

Nielsen’s global and local infrastructure teams took the steps to contain the incident, launched a robust investigation and are currently working to resolve the issue as fast as possible. We will be sure to keep the industry informed as new information on the matter becomes available.

While the data is not currently available the information is being stored on local storage devices placed in each OzTam home. Each day the ‘black box’ which tracks viewing habits continues to monitor and store information. That information is then uploaded to OzTam in the early hours of the morning and released at 8.58am.

Each day the television industry essentially comes to a halt when those daily ratings figures are released. Indeed, those results can put you on a high or have you commiserating a bad result. People in the industry live and die by those daily reports.

Without them it’s a very strange feeling.

In September last year TV Blackbox profiled a home in Sydney containing a ratings box. As I sat down with ‘Jenny’ she explained how the boxes work;

“I’ve got a designated letter, that represents me, so I am actually A, because I’m the main owner, but if I have a visitor, I have to add the person in, so I put in B, and I put down the age they are, and whether they’re male or female.

Jenny enters my details as we watch Seven’s afternoon news. As we change the channel over to Nine, Jenny explains the box will monitor her viewing choices but she only needs to change the TV with her normal remote.

As previously mentioned, that data is still being collected while Nielsen works through the attack on its servers, but in the world of PR many opportunities will be lost for TV networks as the news cycle moves on. Big Brother should have given Seven a triumphant morning, but when those figures finally come through will anyone care?

Robert McKnight
"Leading TV commentator" - The Daily Telegraph | "Known for his impeccable sources in the TV industry" - The Daily Mail | Robert McKnight is a highly regarded Australian Television Producer having worked at SEVEN, NINE and TEN during his 25 years in the industry. Publicly he is most well-known for creating and producing STUDIO 10 but has worked on Sunrise, The Morning Show plus other prime time productions in addition to creating award-winning news campaigns for both 7 News and 9 News. Currently Rob is the host and producer of the TV Blackbox, McKnight Tonight and Monsters Who Murder podcasts plus host & Executive Producer of the video streaming show The Ben, Rob & Robbo show

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