TV Researchers Look to Future Beyond C3, Nielsen Demos

Big Data Summit TV Research
Chelsea Lauren/Variety/REX Shutterstock

The Nielsen era is coming to an end, say the research chiefs at some of TV’s biggest brands who assembled for Variety’s Big Data Summit Wednesday in Los Angeles.

Goodbye to subsisting entirely on age and gender demographics. See-ya, C3.

“The days when all we cared about was big broad demographics–those days are gone,” Howard Shimmel, chief research officer at Turner Broadcasting told panel moderator Cynthia Littleton, managing editor of television at Variety.

“It’s much more exciting for advertisers to slice and dice based on behavior,” said Julie Piepenkotter, EVP of research at FX Networks.

Alan Wurtzel, president of research and media development at NBCUniversal, noted that the three-day period in which TV networks monetize ads is shortsighted given new research beginning to indicate there’s more money to be made across a longer viewing horizon.

“What we’re finding is the nature of the audience after 14 days changes,” he said. “It becomes younger and more upscale. The idea we have to stick to c3 and c7 to stick to is foolish when you look at the way they’re consuming this content.”

Piepenkotter may have scored the funniest line of the day at the summit when she described what she referred to as a “datagasm”: the delayed satisfaction that comes to executives when hoped-for audience levels that didn’t materialize during the C3 period register weeks later.

“At a certain point 4-6 weeks later, it’s like, ‘Oh, there it is, it just took a while to get there,” she joked.

Wurtzel observed that some of the conventions the TV industry adheres to including the all-important 18-49 demographic are just traditions handed down over the decades that don’t have much intrinsic meaning.

“It’s high time the industry realize we’re dealing with something that is a vestige of the past and move on to something that is clearly more effective,” he said.

However, change is not so easy to come by given what Keith Friedenberg, partner & EVP, global insights group at WME/IMG, described as the “fire drill” mentality out there now.

“The speed of at which business is being transacted is only getting faster,” he noted. “Meanwhile, there’s an ocean of data you’re supposed to swim through to find the nuggets.”




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  1. Mike M says:

    Datagasm’s all round then, even for the oldies outside of 18/49, when they realize the best 5 year plan doesn’t include their broadcast networks at all. They will be all but irrelevant by as soon as 2020. And no amount of 2020 hindsight jokes are going to work then. It’s there so perfectly in Wurtzel’s own quote: “It’s high time the industry realize we’re dealing with something that is a vestige of the past and move on to something that is clearly more effective,” he said.

  2. TV Researchers. Is that who they are?
    Attend a Big Data Summit. Is that what it is?
    Look to the future. Is that how it works?

    Bob Dylan has a song for this insanity:

    “Now, too much of nothing
    Can make a man feel ill at ease
    One man’s temper might rise
    While another man’s temper might freeze
    In the day of confession
    We cannot mock a soul
    Oh, when there’s too much of nothing
    No one has control …
    On the waters of oblivion.”

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