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Hispanic Nets Counting on Set-Top Data

Hispanic television networks unrated by The Nielsen Co. are looking to use set-top-box data as a new language when talking to media buyers and advertisers. Many advertisers and agencies will not buy networks that don’t offer some sort of measurement, and most Spanish-language networks are too small—or can’t yet afford—to subscribe to Nielsen.

A solution for unrated networks emerged in June at a meeting of the MPG Collaborative Alliance, an industry forum for hashing out new video advertising technologies run by Mitch Oscar, MPG’s executive VP for televisual applications. The coalition’s set-top-box think tank presented a way to compare the set-top-box information on an unrated network and its rated competitors to create a national viewership number that might be acceptable to buyers.

Si TV, an English-language cable network for Hispanics, saw the presentation and ran with it. “I’ve had people say to us, ‘Get some measurement. I don’t care what it is,’” says Tracey McCormack, VP of ad sales at Si TV.

The network has been making presentations to media buyers using set-top data, sparking questions in the Hispanic community. The questions came back to the Collaborative Alliance, which is holding another meeting on the subject Aug. 10 in New York. MPG is inviting the networks, Si TV is inviting other agencies, and Rentrak— which processes set-top data—is buying the sandwiches.

According to Oscar, the meeting is important because set-top data is proving slow to be accepted by networks and media buyers. “More importantly, we want to start to engage the Hispanic community on this, on interactive TV and addressability, because they seem to be a very dynamic group,” he says.

In addition to offering an opportunity for Hispanic networks to quantify their own audiences, the data provides a broader look at the market. Carol Hinnant, senior VP of business development at Rentrak’s Advanced Media Intelligence division, says that when Hispanic broadcast viewership is measured in traditional ways, Univision accounts for about two-thirds of the 7 million hours of Hispanic TV viewing per month. Using set-top-box data, there are an additional 4 million hours each month spread across 23 other Hispanic networks, the majority of which are unrated. “That’s a lot of viewing that’s happening in that category,” she says.

The data will encourage agencies to buy networks they previously haven’t. Without ratings, Lisa Torres, executive VP and group account director of MPG Diversity, says her agency isn’t buying those networks for clients: “Hopefully now with this new methodology, I can start carving money out to start testing them, or putting them on the buy with some level of measurement mechanism. That will allow me to report back to the client that because we added [this network] to the buy, this happened” in terms of sales.

Currently, set-top data doesn’t provide demographic breakdowns of a channel’s audience, Torres notes. But some numbers are better than none. “It opens up such a window of opportunity to allow a network mix expansion,” she says.

Si TV is close to adding new sponsors, thanks to set-top numbers. Presumably, having numbers will also mean bigger buys at better prices.

“Transparency and accountability are what’s key in today’s environment, and I certainly don’t blame advertisers for wanting to know exactly what they’re getting,” McCormack says.

And McCormack thinks that this week’s meeting will help spread the message. “Even if we don’t make one deal based on this luncheon, I think the more we continue the discussion about set-top-box data, especially for the Hispanic community, the more pervasive it will become,” she says. “There are options out there and the more ubiquitous set-top-box data becomes, the better it will be for our industry.”

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