Lifetime and Group M have struck a major upfront deal on commercial ratings with live plus three DVR playback. (The new metric, which measures live viewing plus time-shifted viewing up to three days later, has come to be known as C3.)
The deal encompasses all dayparts and platforms including Lifetime Movie Network and Lifetimetv.com.
The C3 metric precedent was set in the just concluded broadcast upfront market, which closed last week to the tune of $9.1 billion, a slight increase over last year’s market. But commercial ratings are generally seen as more problematic for cable, especially younger-skewing networks like MTV where channel surfing viewers skip commercials.
The Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau (CAB) recently formed the Commercial Ratings Commission to address the myriad processing issues associated with the data, which Nielsen only began making widely available in May. The commission – which includes representatives from Nielsen, media agencies and cable and broadcast networks – also will work toward coming to a consensus on greater granularity in the future. Nielsen’s new commercial ratings data measures national commercials within a pod, not ratings for individual commercials.
Executives at many cable networks remain skeptical of the commercial ratings data.
“We haven’t had the data long enough,” said John Matluk, Lifetime’s senior vice president of ad sales. “But the commercial ratings have become the currency that the big players want to do business on.”
Lifetime doesn’t experience precipitous viewer defection during commercials, according to Matluk.
“We actually aren’t as hurt as much as other (cable networks) are,” he said, “so we decided we should embrace it and try to work with it as much as possible.”
Other networks also have come to the same conclusion. Starcom last week negotiated broad upfront deals with Discovery and Nickelodeon on the new metric.
Conversely, DVR viewing doesn’t adversely affect ad-supported cable as much as broadcast television. In homes with DVRs, 42 percent of broadcast programming is recorded compared to only 15 percent for cable owing to cable’s smaller inventory of originals and a programming model that includes multiple repeats each week. But that model is changing as cable networks attempt to establish niche brands with original scripted programming.
“If you look at the landscape today and what’s happening this summer with all the original programming (on) cable,” said Rick Basso, senior vice president of pricing and planning at Lifetime, “those are (broadcast) network quality shows, they’re going to get the kind of playback that network gets. I think the future of cable will include a lot more DVR playback.”