While original 605 staffers are getting clocks to mark their fifth anniversary with the firm, some are speculating that Nielsen’s time may be up as the dominant player in the TV measurement business following criticism from clients and the suspension of its accreditation by the Media Rating Council.
Dolan tells Broadcasting+Cable she never saw Nielsen as competition when she got into the business.
While Nielsen’s ratings were the currency for the media business, 605’s mission was to generate the kind of information about television that advertisers were used to getting from online media to keep ad dollars from leaving TV.
“It’s not about the future of TV measurement,” Dolan said. ”It’s about the future of TV advertising. What we do is we do planning, optimization, attribution. And we’re now working on the nirvana of the future, which is prediction: ’If I buy this media, what will it get me in results?’ ”
While 605 may not compete with Nielsen, Nielsen’s current problems have other companies in the TV business looking for more precise data and new providers.
“I will say the phone has rung a few times,” Dolan said.
One of those phone calls reportedly came from NBCUniversal, which sent requests for proposals to dozens of companies in the data, measurement and analytics business in a bid to make the industry less dependent on Nielsen. Dolan declined to comment on the NBCU process.
Filling a ‘Data Lake’
Over the course of its five years, 605 has created what Dolan calls a data lake. It has 1.3 trillion lines of data in its database, which takes up 6 petabytes of storage (that’s 1,000 terabytes).
“Every night, we onboard 300 million viewing events,” she said. “We marry that up and say what ads ran during those tuning events, and we get 2 billion records a day of anonymized viewing activity.” That data goes back to 2017, Dolan said, giving 605 a basis to look back and see how campaigns performed and a way to predict how similar campaigns will perform in the future.
That data also helps 605 measure campaigns across linear, digital and connected TV. Lots of newer companies can measure CTV, but getting good measurement of broadcast is much harder but necessary to evaluate omnichannel campaigns.
“As much as people think broadcast television and cable television are dead, they’re not going anywhere for a long time,“ Dolan said. ”And if you’re only looking at connected TV and digital measurement, you’re missing a piece of the pie.”
All that data is expensive to store and operationalize, Dolan said, but 605 is getting much faster at responding to advertiser queries. “A report that used to take two months to do when we were at Cablevision Media Sales, with people combing through Excel spreadsheets, we could do in 55 minutes a year ago and now we can do it in seven minutes,” said Dolan, who served as chief operating officer at Cablevision Systems until its 2016 acquisition by Altice USA.
605 is working on creating a predictive product. “I don’t want to give a timeline, but it is definitely on our road map,” Dolan said. The company aims to help advertisers identify persuadable consumers who, if reached with the right message, are likely to become purchasers. “I always feel bad saying it, but our behavior is relatively predictable. If you have the right inputs, you can figure out what the outputs are going to be.”
Relationships a Key Asset
In addition to its data lake, 605 also has valuable relationships. A key client is Walmart. An important data provider is Charter Communications, which renewed its long-term agreement with 605 in June. It also works with nearly all of the major programmers to help them measure how effective the campaigns they sell are. “Attribution is additive,” she said.
Companies in the ad tech, data and analytics business have also been involved in a dizzying round of merger, acquisition and initial public offering activity. That has Dolan’s phone ringing as well.
“It’s all about the SPAC,” Dolan joked, referring to the special purpose acquisition companies being financed to take startups public.
“We’re always going to listen, but that being said we’re very comfortable continuing down our own path,” Dolan said of the offers being made for 605.
People are in the market for companies like 605 because it’s involved in media buying transactions worth billions of dollars and because the allure of television and the media business makes it a bit sexy. “It’s big data. It's media. It’s a cool place to be,” she said.
“We have some big companies, but this is our baby,” she said. “It’s been a ton of work. I’m way too old to have done a start-up. We’ve been having some really interesting conversations, but we don’t have a specific plan of action that we need to pursue.”
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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.
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