Nielsen's Now Measuring DirecTV to Spur National Ad Sales

DirecTV Inc. is aiming to become a bigger national ad-sales player, now that it's signed up for Nielsen Media Research's audience ratings.

The company expects its selling effort to "move to a new level" as a result of the recently signed agreement, according to Kirk Kopic, the direct-broadcast satellite provider's vice president of advertiser sales.

But Kopic said DirecTV is subscribing to special monthly ratings reports on its cable networks, rather than the ratings giant's overnight numbers. Under a contract that took effect July 1, Kopic said those monthly reports will go to ad agencies and other Nielsen subscribers.

Kopic pointed out that DirecTV — now in 11.5 million homes — sells "by clusters," rather than by network or individual programs. All told, the company and its ad-sales rep, Sony Pictures Television, groups its 100 networks in eight so-called "clusters" — including female, male, adult, young adult, kids, sports, news and Spanish-language.

The female cluster, for instance, includes Lifetime Television, Food Network and Home & Garden Television, among other services.

A client like Nissan would have its spot air across the various networks within that package at roughly the same time, he noted.

Besides its monthly report, Nielsen will supply the DBS leader with a custom Media Information Tape, listing data by quarter-hour for every day of the week, as well as demographics for DirecTV's clusters and individual sports events, the companies said.

DirecTV's commercial inventory averages two national minutes per hour — sometimes three minutes — with the avails positioned during the same local ad breaks the networks' cable affiliates get, Kopic explained.

Kopic said it's too soon for DirecTV to get feedback from the ad agencies, since media buyers had not yet been informed last week about its Nielsen measurement. But he said the measurement move would help the DBS platform expand its sponsor roster to include those accounts that balk at buying schedules on unmeasured media.

Nielsen will derive its DirecTV ratings data from subscriber homes that belong to the researcher's random national People Meter sample. Kopic estimated that "400 to 500" DirecTV customers are part of the 5,000-home People Meter sample at any given time.

Upscale viewers

DirecTV received an assist last year when a Nielsen qualitative research study supported its affluent-audience claims. That brought in such upscale automakers as BMW and Jaguar, he noted.

Kopic estimated that DirecTV's ad revenues have soared by 2000% since 1999, when Sony Pictures Television (then Columbia TriStar Television Distribution) first became its sales-rep firm.

According to a Sony Pictures spokesman, other current advertisers on DirecTV include: AT&T Corp., Anheuser-Busch Inc., Best Buy, Microsoft Corp. and Warner Bros.