Comscore in Breakthrough Deal for Comcast TV Data

Comscore, in what it called an industry-transforming deal, has reached an agreement with Comcast to integrate set-top-box viewing data from Comcast homes into its local and national measurement services.

Comcast has not made its consumer data available to audience research companies, limiting the accuracy, granularity and geographic coverage of set-top-box data-based ratings, which has been touted as a census-level approach to measurement. Comcast’s NBCUniversal unit has sold some advertising products that targeted viewers based on Comcast set-top data.

Comscore CEO Bill Livek

Comscore CEO Bill Livek

The deal is also a boon for Comscore, which is emerging from several years of turmoil and management following the discovery of accounting issues in its financial reporting. Last September, Comscore settled fraud charges brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission against the company and its former CEO Serge Matta.

“This is a game-changing moment in the history of television measurement,” said Bill Livek, who became CEO of Comscore in November.

“Comscore’s partnership with Comcast is a significant step in our transformation of television measurement, as we have built the largest viewing dataset of second-by-second viewership data that is aggregated across all premium video providers from the device, to the household, to zip, to the market and to the nation,” Livek said.

RELATED: CBS Stations Renew Comscore Ratings Deal

Comscore said the Comcast data will make its audience ratings, impressions, advanced audiences and Exact Commercial Ratings products more stable and predictive. That should help its national and local clients attract more revenue from advertisers looking at more trustworthy data.

“As media costs continue to rise, advertisers and agencies are under increasing pressure to demonstrate results,” said Bret Leece, global chief data & innovation officer at Havas Media Group. “This agreement is significant because it strengthens Comscore’s already-massive scale and eliminates uncertainty around TV measurement. For Havas, this combination gives us the confidence to use Comscore as we help grow our client’s business.”

“Comscore has always had the objective to fulfill census-level measurement for TV viewing and with the addition of Comcast, they are well-positioned to deliver on their goal,” said Keith Kazerman, executive VP, digital sales, advanced advertising and research at Discovery. “Bill Livek is already making an immediate and positive impact on Comscore and the industry.

The Comcast data should be incorporated into the Comscore data by the end of the year, Livek said.

"The story is that Comcast believes in what we’re doing, how we’re changing the face of measurement for the benefit of everyone in the ecosystem,” Livek said. The data will help Comscore know what shows people watch and be able to link that to the products they consume.

Comscore’s ratings system, which is based on the big data approach, contrasts with Nielsen’s panel system, which used to base national ratings on the behavior of a few thousand Nielsen homes. Nielsen supplements its panel with set-top box data, but adjusts it based on meter reading coming out of those Nielsen homes.

Using set-top-box data has been criticized because there were some cable operators like Comcast that did not provide data, leaving gaps in national coverage that had to be mathematical models. Big data has also been criticized for under-representing non-cable and minority homes.

“Now we will have a complete view of what everyone is doing and that takes the last objection away on why people were not using us to buy. They were using us to plan [ad campaigns], but this is a gamechanger,” Livek said.

Livek said that the Comcast deal is an indication that after years of being distracted as Comscore went through an expensive and time-consuming re-audit, in the last four months, the company is on a growth trajectory.

Comscore was set to report its quarterly earnings Thursday afternoon and it was expected to report a big gain in local ratings revenue and a small gain in online measurement, which has been declining the past couple of years. In recent months, several online clients have returned to Comscore, including Buzzfeed, the PGA, Publishers Clearinghouse, Revolt Media and Accenture Digital.

“It shows that customers believe again. They’re coming back,” Livek said.

In January, Carol Hinnant was promoted to chief revenue officer, reporting to Chris Wilson, who as chief commercial officer is focused on new initiatives including the measurement of direct-to-consumer platforms.

“We realigned our sales efforts and our product efforts, which is important as we go to market,” said Livek. “The company is going in the right direction, resuming growth, focused again on our customers, improving products and doing what we believe is a transformative deal, not necessarily for Comscore, but for the industry which finally has what it’s been asking for.”

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.