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Mark Pedowitz: Ad-Supported TV Losing Money Due to Old Ways of Measuring Auds

This column is part of Variety’s Broken Hollywood feature. For more execs and their opinions on the state of Hollywood, click here.

Despite a lot of discussion about the measurement issue, I do not see change moving fast enough for all of us in the industry. Progress toward accurate measurement needs to happen as quickly as possible. We tried ourselves (at the CW) to see if we could find a way to do it internally, and it was an abject failure. Whether it’s one company or a combination of a lot of companies, measurement needs to get sorted out soon.

The currency of how we get paid is determined by the veracity of the information we’re being given. At this point in time, it’s not a question so much of veracity of the numbers, it’s a question of how much is omitted. To fully capture the economic value of a show, we need measurement from all devices from all places in the TV world.

In a world where we can get all kinds of information instantaneously, none of the measurement companies can deliver information to you to use as currency until almost three weeks after the initial airing. With the rate that technology is changing and the way viewing patterns are drifting as we speak, we need a measurement system in place that covers all platforms. We are seeing that mobile viewing is beginning to outstrip laptop and PC viewing — and there’s no measurement of mobile.

It should not matter what device the viewer is using. It does matter that they’re accurately counted. Only with accurate counting can you determine the economic value of a property.

If you go back in the history of television, when it was the Big Three networks and radio, advertisers used to pay on total households. It wasn’t until the late 1960s-early ’70s that the upstart network ABC was able to convince advertisers that you should pay on adults 18-49. That was the start of the fractionalization of the audience.

We have to decide: Do we stay with the TV ratings currencies as they exist to today and force them up to speed as technology changes, or do we blend them with new systems? Everyone has different perspectives on what measurement needs to be. There’s no unity yet. But if the outcry is great enough, a path will be found.

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