Media And Advertisers Back New Digital Measurement Service
Big media corporations and top advertisers are getting together to collectively push the fast forward button on digital measurement, potentially challenging Nielsen’s dominance of in the media industry.
According to an article in the Financial Times, the top media companies–including NBC Universal, Time Warner, News Corp., Viacom, CBS Corp., Discovery and Walt Disney Co.–are working with advertisers to institute a new ratings system that would work across TV and online. Among the advertisers backing the plan are Procter & Gamble, AT&T and Unilever. Agencies GroupM and Starcom MediaVest Group are also involved.
The issue at hand is how to measure viewers who watch TV shows online. Nielsen measures online viewing as part of its “three screens” initiative, but it isn’t incorporated into the main sample.
So where might these rival measurement services hail. Most likely the answer is the set-top box data that cable systems operators have been trying to monetize for the last few decades. Earlier this month Nielsen’s president of advanced digital services Manish Bhatia rushed to defend Nielsen’s product against set top box figures. He argued that using set-top box data instead of the Nielsen sample would skew ratings massively in favor of cable networks. He predicted a loss to broadcast networks of $730 million if, for instance, data from satellite set-top boxes were used. Of course, there are other measurement players around. TNS Media Intelligence, which focuses on advertising, is eager to eat Nielsen’s cake too.
The FT’s article reports that a new system might be in place as early as fourth quarter. That is stunning news and illustrates big media’s sense of fear that they might be losing out as online viewing grows.
At the TCA press tour this month, CBS research chief David Poltrack delivered a presentation that declared online viewing was reaching critical mass. With Discovery’s entrance to Comcast’s OnDemand Online authentication trial, it’s clear the major players are vested in building a real infrastructure behind online viewing. Hulu is also said to be developing its own authentication system, which would identify paying customers as it explores the possibility of offering subscription services.
Time Warner’s TV Everywhere initiative, aimed at enforcing some core principles around online video viewing, suggests that ad loads be transferred from TV to online in order to gain C3 accreditation from Nielsen. With this new measurement plan speeding towards reality, it remains to be seen whether the TV currency of today will matter much in the digital future.