WarnerMedia is the latest traditional media company to put together a non-traditional way to measure video audiences.
The owner of CNN, TNT and HBO said it has tapped Comscore, iSpot.TV and VideoAmp to help build a new suite of technologies that will help count viewers across linear, digital and connected television. In doing so, the company is the latest in a small parade of media outlets working to propose alternatives to Nielsen, the measurement company whose TV ratings have long been the bedrock of deals for advertising support for TV shows. WarnerMedia said in November it was planning such a move.
“I don’t see a world where Nielsen isn’t part of the conversation when it comes to currency and transactions,” says Andrea Zapata, head of research, data and insights for WarnerMedia Ad Sales, in an interview. But with more advertisers and media agencies demanding a tabulation of audiences with narrower characteristics than age or gender, she says, “for now, they are a blunt counting mechanism” and the networks need to find more precise technologies as viewers move to streaming video and mobile screens.
WarnerMedia is working to craft “test and learn” agreements with media agencies and clients that will help the company determine how the three companies’ measurement tools work. says Zapata. And WarnerMedia expects that a “discrete amount of inventory” for advertisers will be made available for transactions in the next industry “upfront,” when U.S. TV companies try to sell the bulk of their advertising for the next programming cycle.
WarnerMedia will initially test how the trio of vendors can measure reach and frequency of advertising against specific types of consumers, whether they are located in a particular part of the country or might be considered in market to buy a new car or appliance. Later in the year, the company intends to seek partners that can help it provide information on business outcomes attributed to advertising, such as website visits or product purchases.
A host of TV companies are making similar maneuvers. NBCUniversal has declared its intent to find vendors that will help it provide audience measurement to clients and both ViacomCBS and Univsion have also struck deals with companies like VideoAmp and Comscore to offer similar services
The efforts to provide Madison Avenue with new kinds of yardsticks comes as dissatisfaction with Nielsen has become more palpable. Nielsen has long dominated this business, but that company has been under intense scrutiny for months. TV networks have accused the company of not counting audiences accurately and the Media Rating Council, an industry body that scrutinizes measurement methodologies, has taken away its backing of Nielsen’s local and national ratings. As Nielsen works to renew its ties with the industry, a host of rivals and upstarts have begun to form partnerships with the networks and various media agencies, giving rise to the notion that the industry may start to rely on multiple kinds of audience measurement in its deals with advertisers both large and small.
“Replicating the current system is not innovative and doesn’t bring the industry forward,” said Stuart Schwartzapfel, senior vice president of media partnerships at iSpot, in a statement. “Every second of advertising across platforms, and specific audience segments can and should be verified and measured along with programming,”