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Discovery, Starcom Do Upfront Deal Using Commercial Minute Ratings

Showing support for selling ad time using the most precise metrics possible, Discovery Communications signed a major upfront deal with Starcom USA based on minute-by-minute commercial ratings, the first deal of this upfront season to be negotiated using that metric.

The deal, which extends across Discovery's portfolio of 11 networks, is based on "exact minute ratings" culled from Nielsen's "All Minute" data rather than "Average Commercial" data, meaning that rather than selling time based on an average number of viewers during an entire commercial break, Discovery is selling based on the average number of viewers in each 60 seconds during a commercial interruption.

Discovery is combining Nielsen's commercial-viewing research with its clients' own tracking of viewing during their commercials to come up with figures it deems accurate enough to sell upon, according to executives briefed on the deal. Other networks have negotiated using exact minute ratings before, but this is the first big, multi-network deal of its kind this season.

The deal represents a commitment from both Discovery and Starcom to using data more granular than that currently used; not all agencies are yet even equipped to do business based on exact commercial ratings. Last week, NBC and the Group M agency negotiated an upfront deal for its broadcast and cable networks using "Average" rather than "All Minute" commercial data. Both the NBC deal and Discovery's take into account iewers who watch shows days later on DVR devices.

“Marketers expect a far greater level of accountability from their agencies and advertising partners than ever before and we are thrilled to offer Starcom’s clients the first opportunities across our top-quality platforms, backed by the most accurate data available,” said Joe Abruzzese, President, Advertising Sales, Discovery Communications.

Starcom has pushed for preciseness in tracking viewers before, in May doing a deal for Discovery's HD network using research from media-tracking company TNS. Because Discovery HD is not widely distributed enough to be tracked by Nielsen, Starcom used the TNS data as another way to nonetheless monetize the viewers it does have. In doing so, Starcom and Discovery gave a vote of confidence to research methods other than just the conventionally accepted Nielsen tracking of TV programs.

Said Beth Rockwood, Senior Vice President, Market Resources for Discovery: “We believe the industry will eventually move to the Exact Minute delivery metric as a basis for guarantees.  By closely tracking client schedules since January using this methodology, we have found the data to be consistent and reliable. By moving directly to this metric now, Discovery can fulfill a chief demand by advertisers in this Upfront.:

Starcom declined to name the clients involved in this deal, but the agency represents Allstate, Nintendo and Kellogg's, among others, and has been one of the more forward in embracing commercial minute ratings. Last year, Starcom did deals with E!, AMC and the Weather Channel using commercial minute data.

“We’ve always believed the market will get there [and use minute by minute guarantees,” said Chris Boothe, Starcom USA President/Chief Activation Officer, in an interview. He said the agency is in talks with other TV partners on deals using minute by minute ratings. “It’s the most precise way to measure clients’ ratings. We’re trying to move as fast as we can to get accountability for our clients.”