By all accounts, audience measurement still is not where the purveyors of premium video content would like it to be.
“We want to be able to make sure we are accurately capturing every impression and giving it value as part of a deal. The audience that gets extended through time-shifted viewing has really become an important piece of how clients look to buy us across platforms,” Rita Ferro, president of ad sales at the Disney ABC Television Group, tells Cynopsis. “We’re making progress, but there’s work to be done.” Currently 15-20% of Disney-ABC content viewing occurs in a non-linear environment, she says.
The lag has given rise to a variety of stop-gap solutions. Fox, Turner and Viacom recently joined forces to launch Open AP, a digital platform advertisers can use to customize data sets to create ad-targeting criteria across multiple TV buys. Meanwhile, NBC and Fox both struck deals to use video measurement tool Video Quality Scores from digital advertising analytics company Moat, which will tally video across all on-demand viewing environments. The two companies also are working to bring Moat measurement to linear viewing.
“The key thing for us is to make our products available on as many platforms as we can and monetize it,” Bruce Leftkowitz, Fox EVP of ad sales, tells Cynopsis. Noting today 30 percent of Fox viewing is in the nonlinear environment, he adds, “Perfect world, the ad dollars follow the audience and 30 percent of our revenue should be nonlinear. We’re not there yet but every year the advertisers continue to follow the audience.”
Leftkowitz adds, “What Open AP does is homogenize the information, so everyone is the same. It makes it easier for comparison. That, and to be able to do it at scale with not just one vendor doing it alone, is a great advantage.”
“At this point, the advertising industry has not yet sufficiently caught up with the new ways people are consuming content,” CBS chief Les Moonves said during the company’s recent earnings call. “In last year’s upfront, we pushed to get over 50 percent of our ad sales done in C7, which was a very important step. This year, we expect that almost every deal will be C7…. Across the board, monetizing our total viewership is a top priority for us.”
“There’s no doubt digital provides some differentiated audiences; it’s an additive audience, but we want to make sure they have a brand-safe environment,” says Mark Marshall, EVP of entertainment advertising sales at NBCU. “So instead of starting with a digital platform and letting an algorithm lead you to where you’re going to end up, why not start with our content and let the content lead you to the platform. The programming is driving you where you want to integrate your brand.”
Marshall says the concept has been favorably greeted in early meetings. “Time will tell as we get into the Upfront, but it’s gotten a very positive early response in terms of agencies and clients feeling very safe in the environment they are choosing.”
“Interest in digital always feels on the rise,” says Matt Borchard, media director at Noble People, a creative media agency whose clients include Honest Tea and shave products company Harry’s. But there can be a catch, he notes. “The out of pocket cost for digital is lower than for traditional TV. But the CPMs typically aren’t—especially when you factor in viewability fraud, skipping, etc. So brands can align with the premium content from networks but not pay the cost of running on linear. The reality is that the audiences on digital platforms are vastly smaller than linear and frequency can get to the point of annoying without controls.”