A Defining Moment: NYI's Betsy Rella on The State of TV Today

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Cover image for  article: A Defining Moment: NYI's Betsy Rella on The State of TV Today

One of Betsy Rella's favorite parts of her job as vice president of data and research for New York Interconnect (NYI) is finding the stories in the numbers – the takeaways from surveys and data sets that NYI can use to grow their business by helping advertisers grow theirs. And, at a time when the world, literally, is home, and those numbers say that people in the NY market are consuming more video than ever, that information is key for the largest interconnect in the country. Since this is also a time when people are playing catch up on growing their knowledge base and business insights, I asked Rella for a download on trends in consumption and a 101 on how buys are planned and sold.

Listen to the complete episode here or anywhere you listen to podcasts, and please subscribe, for all the details and smart insights. This is Part 1 of a topline of our conversation, covering the definition of TV and why impression-based buying and selling is a must for the future. Part 2 will topline Rella's take on the future of holistic media planning and targeting, the rise of CTV and the state of news viewing. The following has been edited for clarity and brevity.

E.B. Moss: How's everyone – and how is NYI doing in this remote work scenario?

Betsy Rella: I'm doing well. And NYI really made sure early on that everyone was set up to work from home and that we had the equipment and connections needed. Now instead of walking down the hall, we're either chatting through Microsoft Teams or doing a video call. So, we haven't skipped a beat.

Moss: Great. Betsy, you've been a senior executive for years at networks like MTV, Lifetime, and Weather Channel, and you were at Ipsos and TiVo. How did those roles prepare you for life at NYI?

Rella: I started out in broadcast at ABC then at the cable networks supporting ad sales, programming, scheduling, marketing, finance, you name it. Research is always in the thick of it, feeding that data, those insights and analysis to all the different areas within a company. This role brought everything together -- linear, digital, now advanced TV, OTT, and data, which runs through everything.

At NYI I get to do everything; we're dealing with data and different vendors every day. As a joint venture between Altice, Comcast and Charter, we are basically repping that inventory on linear and digital for those providers and the coverage within the NY market is huge: a footprint of over 7.5 million households and with broadband only included, we're looking at 20 plus million consumers -- 66 plus million screens. So, as the consumer is engaging with content on different platforms, the advertiser needs to follow them and we help flight across these different platforms, then report on it, measure it, and do the backend attribution as well.

Moss: What is TV referred to as these days?

Rella: It depends on who you're talking to, but you could be watching on your TV set, you could be watching on your phone, you could be watching on your computer, you could be watching on your iPad. And Nielsen classifies different types of households: a home that is a cable home or an over the air home or a broadband only home. People are still buying TVs. So, in some ways, it's still TV and the set is still there, but there's more content available, whether it's through ad-supported cable networks, through paid channels -- and there are new ones launching every day, like Peacock. But in some ways, TV is still a TV.

Moss: Is that where impression-based buying and selling comes in? What's your definition of that and how is it different from what we've been doing?

Rella: The standard in TV had been ratings and cost per point. Nielsen used program audience as a proxy for ad delivery, essentially. And with the dawn of these new technologies, phones, tablets and so on, and the ability for consumers to engage with content on all these platforms, that game has now changed as has the need for advertisers to flight campaigns across these multiple platforms. Because, of course, if you can't measure it, you can't sell it! If you look at Nielsen data, overall time spent with video is relatively flat over the last two years. But what's changed is how they're viewing it: we see a decline in live, plus time-shifted TV, but an increase in viewing on connected devices, smart phones, and tablets.

So, this begs the question, how do you measure all the viewing across these many platforms so you can report back to the client in a more unified way? Using impressions unifies linear and digital, and also eliminates any ratings discrepancies from using different universes. On the local side, for example, you can look at the full DMA or you can look at a specific zone or market to market. Using impressions allows you to approach buying and selling from a more holistic perspective across markets and across streams.

It's definitely better for the advertiser as it does provide this common currency across platforms, and then they can evaluate their campaign in aggregate with that all laddering up to that one metric. …The standardized view will help them to evaluate and inform outcomes and distribution, and then as a result the consumer gets more targeted ads, a better user experience.

Moss: In terms of consumer viewing, are you seeing any trends now that everybody's staying home?

Rella: Definitely. Usage levels have surged across multiple day parts and it's not just adults -- we're seeing growth in teens and adults, 18 to 34s as well. Ratings are up, of course, for news networks across the board, not only in early morning, but daytime, weekends, and even the overnight day parts. We're seeing people staying up later than they were before. We're seeing live TV is up. DVR playback is up. Streaming in New York is up 44%. That's a pretty big number and was measured just a few weeks ago.

Read Part 2  – or listen to the full episode now -- for Rella's explanation of holistic media planning, how NYI solves for cross-platform measurement, and targeted ad sales for both addressable households and their entire footprint, and the state of news today.

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