WarnerMedia Picks Comscore, iSpot, VideoAmp as Possible Nielsen Alternatives

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WarnerMedia, joining the ranks of media companies exploring alternatives to Nielsen, said it will be working with Comscore, iSpot.TV and VideoAmp to develop potential currencies for selling advertising.

WarnerMedia plans to spend the first half of the year testing and learning with the three measurement companies and expects to use alternative currencies in the upfront for some traditional and advanced advertising transactions.

Andrea Zapata, head of research, data and insights for WarnerMedia Ad Sales, told Broadcasting+Cable that these measurement partners are being tasked with measuring reach and frequency across linear, video on demand, digital and streaming platforms. 

Andrea Zapata

Andrea Zapata (Image credit: WarnerMedia)

In an upcoming stage, WarnerMedia will be looking for companies that can measure advertising effectiveness. “There’s only so much you can do with reach and frequency,” Zapata said. “We want to demonstrate proven value for advanced advertising techniques that now we can measure.”

WarnerMedia is now a part of AT&T, but it being spun off to Discovery in a transaction expected to close this year.

Zapata said that WarnerMedia will continue to work with Nielsen and use Nielsen for some upfront deals. “I would never count Nielsen out of it,” she said.

But Zapata said that WarnerMedia’s search for alternatives picked up steam when the Media Rating Council pulled its accreditation from Nielsen’s national ratings service.

Nielsen's Problems

Nielsen was found to have undercounted viewing during the first year of the pandemic. Since then Nielsen has also encountered resistance to its plan to add broadband-only homes to its local ratings and confessed that a computer glitch had kept some out-of-home viewing from being included in its national ratings.

Nielsen’s troubles in a more complex media world have spurred media companies to seek alternatives to Nielsen, which has long dominated the TV measurement business. NBCUniversal last year sent out requests for proposals to measurement companies and got responses from about 80 vendors. ViacomCBS said it would use currencies from Comscore and VideoAmp and this year began making deals using VideoAmp data.

“I think everyone is sort of on the same page,” Zapata said.

Zapata said agencies and clients still care about the traditional demos, so it is asking measurement companies to show how they would count both men 18 to 49, for example, and more targeted audiences like people who intend to buy a car in the next six months.

WarnerMedia wants to be able to determine the de-duplicated reach and frequency of campaigns airing live on its cable networks, VOD services, digital platforms and its HBO Max streaming service.

“We’re really having real candid and frank conversations with measurement partners about what can you do now and what are you looking to do in the future,” Zapata said.

Different Capabilities In Mix

Zapata said each of the companies WarnerMedia has selected have different attributes and capabilities.

Comscore has been “in the big data game for a very long time,” she said and that put Comscore at the top of WarnerMedia’s list. Comscore also has a good plan for measuring addressable advertising, she added.

“Kicking off 2022 by partnering with WarnerMedia to allow advertisers and agencies the ability to evaluate new measurement across its media inventory is exciting and truly leading the industry to harness the future - now!” said Carol Hinnant, chief revenue officer of Comscore. “WarnerMedia has been a partner for nearly two decades and we are proud to have helped support all of their innovative solutions and believe this test and learn will bring the most value to the marketplace.”

Also: Comscore Everywhere Launching as Direct Competitors to Nielsen One

iSpot has been measuring advertising impressions using automatic content recognition data from smart TVs and has been able to de-duplicate across traditional linear and CTV, Zapata said. “This could be the day when we start decoupling program ratings from commercial ratings. They’re separate issues,” she said.

“Replicating the current system is not innovative and doesn’t bring the industry forward. Every second of advertising across platforms, and specific audience segments can and should be verified and measured along with programming,” said Stuart Schwartzapfel, senior VP of media partnerships at iSpot. “But beyond a better, faster system of quantifying audience, the technologies are now in place to measure the very real impact Warner delivers to brands. From offering attention rates to business outcomes at scale, a fresh, transparent approach helps brands invest with confidence, enables WarnerMedia to demonstrate the value it delivers and ultimately allows both to create a better experience for consumers.”

Also: iSpot Grows Footprint With LG Data From 20 Million Smart TVs

VideoAmp is using both set-top box and ACR data. “That really sets them apart,” Zapata said.

“This is a pivotal moment as the industry makes a once in a lifetime shift away from legacy television currencies to solve decades old problems that have plagued the advertising ecosystem. We couldn’t be more energized to collaborate with Warner Media and take yet another step towards a more sophisticated measurement and currency system. A system that is truly cross-platform, supports traditional and advanced audiences, plus attribution, and allows for both sides to unlock new value and win. VideoAmp is prepared to do whatever it takes to support our customer’s mission,” said Ross McCray, founder & CEO of VideoAmp.

While looking forward to a time when there would be more than one measurement standard, Zapata admitted that having multiple vendors could also be tricky.

“There are two things that are not free: content and measurement,” she said. But she was still interested in seeing where this process would lead.

“Across all these three partners, it was refreshing to see how open they were to not only share their product roadmap, but also listening to what we thought should be a priority,” Zapata said. ■

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.