TV Upfronts: CBS Touts Primetime Reach Among Car Buyers, Moviegoers

CBS has long been able to tell advertisers how many viewers tune in its shows, and often claim to reach most of them. Now it wants to do the same for the number of consumers interested in specific products and tout victory in those narrower groups as well.

Using data from Nielsen and Rentrak, CBS intends to demonstrate to marketers that its programs have more active consumers – people actually in the market to make a purchase in a certain product category – than rivals like NBC, ABC and Fox.

“We can tell a retailer how many of their shoppers last week watched ‘Big Bang’ and we can tell them how much they spent at the register,” said David Poltrack, chief research officer of CBS Corp., in an interview. “We can tell a soft drink company how much consumption of soft drinks the audience of  ‘Big Bang’ delivered and we can identify heavy users versus light users. It even gets more granular than that.”

CBS’ disclosure comes just days before the nation’s big broadcast networks will unveil their fall TV schedules as part of the annual upfront market, when TV outlets try to sell the bulk of their ad inventory for the coming programming cycle. And it highlights the growing importance Madison Avenue is placing on more detailed analysis of TV audiences as a rising wave of digital, mobile and social-media outlets help them carve out niches of passionate crowds linked by a theme or piece of content.

This year’s upfront is expected to be one of the toughest in recent memory, and media companies ranging from NBCUniversal to Scripps Networks have unveiled so-called “data initiatives” that aim to help advertisers find such groups as Greek yogurt buyers and first-time mothers in an effort to get beyond the age and sex demographics that have defined the medium for decades.

Just as many CBS programs are among TV’s most watched, so too does the network’s data suggest that its shows fetch the greatest number of car buyers, diners and moviegoers, among other types of purchasers. CBS found, for example, that its primetime lineup fetches 52% more casual-dining aficionados than NBC’s; 42% more than ABC’s; and 132% more than Fox’s. One suspects those networks would disagree with such contentions and might even offer data from other sources that rebukes them.

And that highlights a challenge the networks may have as they all roll out new kinds of information for advertisers. Because every company is crafting its own effort, advertisers have no standard upon which to base their negotiation. CBS said its claims are based on all primetime programming – excluding sports – for the 2014-2015 season-to-date.

New audience data “is going to be part of the conversation” between CBS and ad buyers, said Poltrack, and among other companies and advertisers. He expects most ad time to be purchased based on pricing systems that have long been in place. Time Warner and Viacom have revealed limited plans to guarantee advertisers particular results based on new kinds of data, but CBS intends for the data to be used to help guide ad buys, Poltrack said.

As an example, Poltrack cited “Blue Bloods,” a Friday-night program which typically is not the most-watched program among viewers between 18 and 49 or between 25 and 54, but indexes highly among viewers who are most likely to spend money over the weekend at restaurants or retailers.

To devise its rankings, CBS has tapped databases from Nielsen and Rentrak that connect purchase data with television viewing data across a wide range of consumer categories such as retail, restaurant, travel, entertainment, financial, movies and automobile. Credit-card purchases, loyalty-card activity and set-top box viewership fluctuations are among the types of data being utilized, Poltrack said. CBS’ data is based on all primetime programming – excluding sports – for the 2014-2015 season-to-date

CBS hopes its shows’ ability to reach bigger audiences will give its data efforts a bigger boost. “We are moving to a new, more sophisticated analytics stage in television buying and selling, and all the companies are moving in that direction,” said Poltrack.  “No matter how good your analytics are, you have to have that audience to begin with.”


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