Media-Ad Consortium Launches Nielsen Rival

A veritable crème de la crème of executives from across the
media industry, advertising agencies and the most influential advertisers in the
TV market announced Sept. 10 the formation of a consortium called the Coalition
for Innovative Media Measurement.

CIMM is aimed at seeking out new ways of measuring audiences
across traditional and emerging media. The formation of the group is widely
seen as an attempt to either bypass Nielsen or to push it towards more speedy
progress in the realm of online video and mobile measurement data collection.

According to a statement issued Thursday by NBC Universal,
the 14 founding members include:

  • Jeff
    Bewkes, Chairman and CEO, Time Warner
  • George
    Bodenheimer, President of ESPN and ABC Sports, and Co-Chair, Disney Media
  • Nick
    Brien, President & CEO, Interpublic Group's Mediabrands
  • Chase
    Carey, Deputy Chairman, President and COO, News Corporation
  • Philippe
    Dauman, President and Chief Executive Officer, Viacom
  • Laura
    Desmond, CEO, Starcom MediaVest Group Worldwide
  • Dina
    Howell, Vice President, Global Media & Brand Operations, The Procter
    & Gamble Company
  • Laura
    Klauberg, Senior Vice President, Global Media, Unilever
  • Esther
    Lee, Senior Vice President, Brand Marketing and Advertising, AT&T
  • Sir
    Martin Sorrell, Group Chief Executive, WPP, holding company for GroupM
  • Anne
    Sweeney, President, Disney-ABC Television Group and co-chair, Disney Media
  • Nancy
    Tellem, President, CBS Paramount Network Television Entertainment
  • Page
    Thompson, CEO, North America, Omnicom Media Group
  • David
    M. Zaslav, President and CEO, Discovery Communications
  • Jeff
    Zucker, President and CEO, NBC Universal

That so many senior level executives, rather than their
research counterparts, have put their name to this effort goes some way to
showing how serious the industry is about forming a new vision on how to count
and charge for audiences watching TV shows on new platforms. The group intends
to hire a managing director to pull that vision together.

The press statement reads: "The group will initiate, fund and
evaluate a series of pilot studies with independent measurement companies
focusing on two key areas: the current and future potential of television
measurement through set-top-box data, and new methods for cross-platform media
measurement. CIMM will publish all research findings to its members and make
them publicly available as well."

The news is likely to thrill companies which have an eye on
monetizing set-top-box data and the myriad research outfits looking to crunch
or merge it with other data sets. Whether it spells the beginning of the end of
Nielsen's weighted national TV panel is hard to say at this stage since virtually the
entire $70 billion TV advertising business is built around Nielsen produced C3
commercial ratings currency.

The formation of the consortium coincides with another
cross-industry call to action dubbed "TV Everywhere," which aims to rally the
industry toward new methods of making their content available online. TV
Everywhere, touted by Jeff Bewkes at Time Warner, aims to institute a core set
of principles for participants to avoid the fate of cable's video on-demand
platform, wherein so many different technical standards are in force that
advertisers are put off by the difficulty of running campaigns. The key
principle, of course, is authenticating or identifying consumers who already
subscribe to pay-TV platforms.

Nielsen has not yet officially responded to news of the
group, but since reports emerged about the consortium a few weeks ago, it has
been steadily highlighting its efforts on three-screen media measurement. The
company said Sept. 9 that viewers who watch shows online can be counted to
overall TV ratings but that full implementation of the system to track online
services won't be available until early 2011.

Sara Erichson, president of Nielsen's Media Client Services for North America, in a Sept. 8 letter to clients, wrote that
such authentication services "could provide the best way for video content
providers to monetize TV programs online" and that online audiences viewing
these programs could be included in Nielsen's TV ratings.

"Given that more
than $70 billion of television advertising is bought and sold using Nielsen
ratings, we are careful not to take any actions that would dilute the
reliability of the core television ratings data," Erichson wrote.
"Consequently, we are undertaking an extensive evaluation program before
fully integrating television and Internet measurement."