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TVB Forward: Panels, Impressions and Pay Per Performance Are Top Priorities for Ad Execs

TVB Forward
(Image credit: TVB)

As the television business continues to move closer to a streaming model, essentially turning the advertising measurement business on its ear, a panel of top industry executives said Thursday that the future will depend on how ratings companies, buyers and sellers can effectively analyze and interpret the reams of data available, and in some cases, pair that with panel data to paint a more accurate picture of who is watching what.

Nielsen has come under fire lately for its reliance on panel data, which it found difficult to validate during the pandemic. In early September, the Media Rating Council suspended Nielsen’s accreditation for local ratings. The MRC is seen as the seal of approval for measurement companies signaling their ratings have been determined using the proper methodology.

At a panel titled “The Future of Measurement” at Thursday’s virtual TVB Forward conference and moderated by TVB executive VP and chief research officer Hadassa Gerber, Nielsen chief operating officer Karthik Rao said while panel data has come under fire during the pandemic, it is still an important part of the process. 

“They’re not enough, we’ve acknowledged that all the way back to 2018, when we brought in other data sets to help complement what we provide from a panel perspective,” Rao said. “We continue to believe that panels are foundational. They’re the only thing that can provide access to what  people actually do in their households.” 

Rao continued that driving home that importance to clients and the rest of the industry is one of his top two priorities for the year — along with the addition of broadband-only homes and helping clients transact business based on ad impressions.

“Ultimately, this has to lead into the ability to measure the implicated frequency across media,” Rao said. 

Comscore executive vice chairman and CEO Bill Livek said his biggest priority is to ensure that his company has the most correct information to measure viewership. 

“We are big believers that the way you get the most correct information available are from big data sets that are further augmented with other data sets, so you can look at who is watching what specific program by second and look at the characteristics that go beyond age and gender,” Livek said. “Also, it’s very important to make sure we are counting all the impressions that are available, with the similar standards that are on digital and on television. Lastly, it is to continue to invent, to invent products that measure consumers who are in-market right now for certain products and how it relates directly to their television viewing.” 

Horizon Media executive VP and managing partner, Local One, Nancy Larkin, said that ensuring the validity of data is crucial to ad buyers and agencies.

“A pay on delivery model from all broadcasters would be a tremendous push forward,”  Larkin said. “Most important is a measurement that is accredited, reliable, and has substantial representation in each local market, and that it includes bulk viewing regardless of where that may be.Too much time is spent on the buyers and agencies having to analyze data that is flawed, faulty, looking at different samples. You guys need to get it right.”

E.W. Scripps Co. VP of sales and local media Missy Evenson added while buyers and agencies move toward impressions measurement, it is crucial that all parties are on the same page.

“It’s important to get that third-party accreditation and a source that provides trust for us in the MRC,” Evenson said. “An agreed-upon currency around impressions for everybody is equally important and a push as to an agreed-upon definition of what an impression is across all platforms is important. Universe estimates that we can all agree on and that have been validated are going to be very important to us.” 

Livek agreed, adding that not all impressions are created equal. 

“Someone watching the nightly news on a local station vs. a kid jumping through a hoop on a video is a very different type of impression,” Livek said. “Those are the pieces of the puzzle also that we’re committed to show that television video is unique vs. other forms of video available.”

The Comscore CEO added that his company will begin the MRC accreditation process in mid-October. 

Reports have said that Nielsen will be looking for RPD (Return Path Data) and ACR (Automatic Content Recognition) methodology accreditation from the MRC for its national metered markets, and Rao said the company is in active discussions to extend that to local markets as well. 

“We are in active discussions,” Rao said. “There is no question why we won’t go beyond the metered markets as well. It’s a matter of sequence. We are committed, we’re executing and we’re in active conversations as we have been for decades.”

Looking ahead, Larkin said that automation and pay per performance are the two biggest areas that buyers and agencies need to focus on. 

“COVID slowed us down a little bit, but we’re hoping that 2022 will move us forward with a lot of automated practices,” Larkin said. "Pay per performance … it’s where everybody needs to go. It’s going to be the thing that sustains our business.” 

Mike Farrell

Mike Farrell is senior content producer, finance for Multichannel News/B+C, covering finance, operations and M&A at cable operators and networks across the industry. He joined Multichannel News in September 1998 and has written about major deals and top players in the business ever since. He also writes the On The Money blog, offering deeper dives into a wide variety of topics including, retransmission consent, regional sports networks,and streaming video. In 2015 he won the Jesse H. Neal Award for Best Profile, an in-depth look at the Syfy Network’s Sharknado franchise and its impact on the industry.