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Look into IMW’s crystal ball and PropheSEE a hit

Measuring service predicted 'Houswives,' 'Lost' hits

Leading media buyer Initiative Media Worldwide is introducing a new tool, PropheSEE, that will allow its clients and TV networks in the U.S. and overseas to predict how a new show will fare by tracking buzz well before a launch date.

During test runs in July, the measuring service correctly forecast that ABC’s “Desperate Housewives” and “Lost” would both be hits. PropheSEE also picked three out of the five People’s Choice Awards for favorite new TV drama (“Desperate,” “Lost” and CBS’ “CSI: NY”).

PropheSEE analyzes Internet “chatter” and the quality of the buzz, whether positive or negative, IMW says.

“When it picked ‘Lost,’ the first thing I thought was that it didn’t work,” said Initiative exec VP and director of global research integration Stacey Lynn Koerner, who has been closely involved in the development of PropheSEE.

Koerner said PropheSEE is different from research a network does in that it’s a passive measurement, meaning viewers aren’t being asked to watch a show and give their opinions. And while networks certainly assign staffers to keep an eye on Web chatter, they don’t have the large database that PropheSEE provides.

“This tool is much more useful at predicting a sleeper. People were talking about ‘Desperate Housewives,’ not ‘Lost.’ There was a lot of negative industry chatter about ‘Lost.’ I challenge anyone to say they predicted it would be a hit,” Koerner said.

TV networks can use the information to fine-tune their marketing strategies for a show that might have to overcome negative or neutral viewer perceptions. In more extreme circumstance, nets could use the info to scrap an upcoming show.

Initiative Media CEO Alec Gerster said PropheSEE has important international applications as well, such as during the acquisitions process when foreign broadcasters mull which upcoming U.S. shows to buy.

Also, international nets can gain a better understanding of which format might cross cultural borders, Gerster said. In the next year, service will be rolled out in other languages.

Initiative has spoken with all the major U.S. nets about PropheSEE, although no deals have yet been signed. Agency has now begun speaking with TV studios. Overseas, Gerster said discussions have been held with multiple nets in the United Kingdom and France. Conversations with German nets will commence next.

The goal is to provide PropheSEE clients with batches of weekly data on a monthly basis.

Outside of networks and production studios, PropheSEE will only be available to Initiative’s advertising clients, who can use the information to help plot their media-buying strategies for the broadcasting year.

With advertisers increasingly turning to sponsorship packages, PropheSEE will serve an important role in tracking how a viewer’s attitudes about a specific show shift over time, Gerster said.

Koerner added that Initiative’s advertising clients singing up for PropheSEE will have a strategic advantage in terms of building brand awareness and image.

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