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NBCUniversal Unveils New Measure for Multi-Screen Viewership

NBCUniversal said it would offer a new measure of how many people see advertising associated with its programming, no matter how it’s viewed, adding another yardstick to an industry that can’t seem to rely on just one to gauge how viewers interact with content across a dizzying array of new screens.

The Comcast-owned company said its “CFlight” metric would deliver a “comprehensive representation” of the impressions made by commercials within full episodes of shows across various screens. The company intends to use the measure to guarantee campaign performance in its programming, “especially where significant audience consumption is on digital platforms.”

The new technology comes after NBCUniversal tested a similar concept during its recent telecast of the Olympics.  Where advertisers in those Games were once guaranteed a certain level of household ratings, in 2018 NBC Sports switched its guarantee to a “total audience delivery” that tabulated linear, digital and out-of-home viewers for a particular piece of content. That meant advertisers were paying not only for exposure via broadcast and cable, but also for via streaming on mobile devices and connected TVs.

One rival has also tested these waters. Walt Disney’s ESPN in September said it would count linear and streaming audiences as one, and also offer to tabulate so-called “out of home” viewership in hotels, airports and other venues for sponsors who wanted such data.  The plethora of new audience-counting methodologies threatens to overwhelm an industry that has yet to devise a common standard allowing advertisers to gauge new forms of viewership at scale, sparking fears that the era of using a single measure is coming to an end for the media industry.

What makes the NBCU measure particularly interesting, said Mark Marshall, executive vice president of entertainment advertising sales for NBCUniversal in an interview, is that it counts completed views of commercials, not just a few seconds as some competing digital sites might.  NBCUniversal will also commit to deliver post-campaign metrics and reporting that combine both linear and digital delivery across all platforms.

NBCU said “CFlight” would rely on Nielsen, ComScore, Moat and other measurement companies to devise a composite count of impressions that would also take into account co-viewing on broadband venues such as Roku and Hulu. The company said so-called “over the top” viewing represents more than one-third of NBCUniversal’s long-form, digital video consumption.

“As our  industry questions the strength of digital-first advertising, we are guaranteeing that campaigns running around NBCUniversal content, regardless of platform, are reaching true, valuable audiences at scale,” said  Linda Yaccarino, NBCU’s Chairman, Advertising and Client Partnerships, in a prepared statement.

NBCU provided statements of testimonial from several senior media buying executives.

“CFlight is an important step towards better measurement in a cross-platform video environment,” said John Swift, CEO, Investment & Integrated Services North America, Omnicom Media Group. “We believe measurement which reflects the nuances inherent with each of these very different consumer viewing environments is a crucial prerequisite to optimizing cross-platform advertising efficiency.”

“NBCU’s move is a step in the right direction, consistent with work we’ve being doing market-wide to get to measurement of commercial viewing, in addition to more complete program ratings. Measurement must keep up with the fluidity of consumption to justify our clients’ investments,” said Lyle Schwartz, Chief Investment Officer, GroupM.

“We are eager to continue to pioneer this space with NBCU as we push the pace of innovation in the cross-screen measurement arena.” said David Cohen, President, North America, MAGNA.

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