CBS topper predicts live-plus-7 ratings will be the norm for blurb deals

Jeff Bewkes was grilled about cable’s bundles. Leslie Moonves was pressed about the shifts in primetime viewing patterns this fall. And News Corp.’s Joel Klein threw the book at Wall Streeters, unveiling details of the Amplify education division on Tuesday at the UBS Media confab in Gotham.

Questioned about possible changes in subscription TV services, Time Warner CEO Bewkes said there doesn’t seem much chance of cable operators moving to unbundle networks packages or create more tiers, although he’s not sure about the sports sector as rights deals become ever more pricey.

“The escalation of sports rights, I don’t know what will happen with that. That may be an issue,” Bewkes said during his presentation at the confab. “Other than the concentrated viewing and cost of sports, the rest of the bundle is a better value than ever.”

Bewkes was sanguine about ratings for cable and even broadcasters, reiterating comments by CBS chief research officer David Poltrack on Monday that millions of DVR, Web and VOD viewers aren’t being measured.

“Monetization is taking place even if you’re not seeing it in the ratings,” Bewkes said.

CBS Corp. chief Moonves called the ratings declines for broadcast nets this season both an “aberration” and “a tipping point.” He predicted that live-plus-7 ratings, which cume seven days of DVR playback viewing into a program’s overall rating, will be the measurement norm for advertising sales within 18 months. The major media congloms will be increasingly pushing for such a change as more viewing is done on a time-shifted basis beyond the three-day frame, or the so-called C3 ratings, that is now the standard for advertising guarantees.

Just 60% of the viewing of CBS’ frosh drama “Elementary” is done live in the show’s Thursday 10 p.m. timeslot, Moonves noted. “You are going to see more and more of that, and it might be that 50% of our audience is live, and that’s fine as long as it’s measured (and) as long as we get paid for it,” Moonves told investors.

“Obviously, the live audience is skewing a bit older than the demos that are seeing it later” via time-shifted viewing, he added.

Moonves said he still gets up at 5 a.m. to read the overnight ratings but acknowledges that they are less and less significant. “I think we have C7 within a year and a half,” he said, as DVRs and Web streaming platforms like Netflix bring new viewers.

Klein, exec VP of News Corp. and former chancellor of the New York City Dept. of Education, told the UBS gathering that the market for educational materials for elementary and high school students is ripe for a shakeup. “Starting now, digital technology will forever change the way we educate students,” Klein said.

News Cop. hired Klein in 2010, then acquired Wireless Generation, which provided a framework for the Amplify division, which has been shrouded in secrecy.

Education is a $673 billion market, Klein said, “the second largest after health care.” Amplify’s addressable market is $17 billion now and will grow, he said.

News Corp.’s $360 million purchase of Wireless Generation was its first foray into education since HarperCollins sold its textbook business years ago. Amplify will be part of the publishing arm when News Corp. splits in two next year.

Wireless Generation has a successful 12-year track record when News Corp. bought it, and Amplify has expanded the business into three prongs: Amplify Insight, focused on data and analytics; a specialized tablet; and a comprehensive K-12 curriculum in math, reading and science. The content can run on Amplify or through third-party devices.

The division will see losses of $180 million this year on investment in new products. Amplify Insight, the extension of Wireless Generation’s business, will generate about $100 million revenue.

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