Bill Livek, named CEO of Comscore on Tuesday, said the company’s problems are behind it and that it's set to grow by measuring media’s cross-platform world.
“You’ve got to be excited about what we do,” Livek told Broadcasting & Cable. “We’re in a great place in a great industry at a great time.”
The stock market seemed to be buying it. Comscore shares, which collapsed from a 52-week high of $23.89 in March to below $2 in August, were up 22% to $3.04 in morning trading Wednesday.
Livek was CEO of Rentrak when it was acquired by Comscore in 2016 and became vice chairman of Comscore. The combined company appeared poised to challenge Nielsen, the leader in media measurement.
But, a few days later, accounting issues cropped up in Comscore’s books and the company went through a time-consuming and expensive re-audit and in September settled SEC fraud charges that the company and former CEO Serge Matta inflated revenue by $50 million. Matta had to give back $2.1 million in compensation as part of the settlement.
During those three years the company went through a series of senior executives, recorded a series of quarterly losses and product development efforts stalled.
This year, the company said it launched a strategic review that could result in the sale of the business and cut 8% of its staff to reduce $40 million in compensation costs.
“No one should have to go through it and we did. That said, I think it's a testament to what we do here at Comscore that we actually got through it with revenue that was fairly consistent over that period of time,” Livek said. As vice chairman, Livek was not a part of management, but he says he weighed in with advice and counsel as a director.
“All of that’s behind us. All of it,” he said. “Now it’s time to focus on the business that we have and how to grow it.”
Comscore is uniquely positioned to cater to the new cross-platform world in which premium content is being distributed. “They have to sell ads and we’re in a great position to measure that and help them make more money,” Livek said.
The three years lost to the re-audit hasn’t hurt Comscore’s competitive position, Livek contended.
“I actually think that time has been our friend there. The market took longer to develop,” he said. Now the movement from selling ads based on broad age and sex demographics to more targeted audience segments is accelerating.
“We’re providing the ability for ad agencies and network to look at these segments and how they’re unique,” he said.
“The dream of the merger was to focus on premium video. That dream is being realized now,” Livek said. “We called it at the time cross-platform and it still is cross platform. But it’s premium video ... it cost a lot of money to generate and in order for that content to be monetized, they need to sell premium ads on it.”