New Metrics on the Way, But the Upfront Comes First

Related: Cross-Platform Ratings Get Ready For Primetime

Media buyers and sellers are excited about all the data they’ll be getting this year. But don’t expect new cross-platform measurements from Nielsen and comScore to have much of an impact on this year’s upfront.

“The good news is we have a lot of cool new stuff. The bad news is what they promised us last year finally came into the market this year,” says Lyle Schwartz, managing partner at GroupM. “So by virtue of that, everything you’re hearing they’re promising this year, I’ll wait till next year till it actually has anything to do with the upfront.”

Nielsen has delivered Digital Content Ratings, part of the overall total content ratings, to its 20 network clients and planned to syndicate it in the first quarter. Now they’re looking at second quarter.

Kelly Abcarian, Nielsen senior VP, product and innovation, says the company is ready to go, but clients are evaluating the data.

“They don’t want confusion in the marketplace as they figure out how to understand these metrics that line up TV and digital for the first time together,” she says. “I think that’s where you’re seeing the hesitation.”

“It’s like herding cats,” says Tom Eagan, analyst at Telsey Advisory Group, of trying to get the networks to agree to a new measurement scheme. “One of the interesting variables here is going to be the strength of the ad market,” he adds, because the stronger the market, the less incentive the networks have to change the way viewership is measured.

“We’re still in the ‘asking questions about the numbers’ phase,” says David Poltrack, chief research officer at CBS. Poltrack says his top concern is that all of the viewing not counted in current measurements is included in the new metric. CBS doesn’t want clients to think the new numbers include all viewers if some are still excluded.

While Nielsen and comScore are trying to get their figures into clients’ hands in time for the upfront, Poltrack says no one expected them to be used until the start of the new TV season.

“Everybody is trying to figure out how to build a cross-platform process on the agency side and on the media side and those conversations are going on,” he says. “There no definite plan yet.”

Many programmers are looking beyond counting viewers when using data to sell advertising. “The use of data is becoming more and more critical for clients to create a different level of accountability,” says Keith Kazerman, head of ad sales product strategy and development at Discovery Communications, which recently launched its Discovery Engage data and analytics platform. He adds it was important to be able to measure “not just impressions but business outcomes.”

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.