Odds Now Favor Competition in U.S. TV Ratings: Part 9 -- Bill Harvey

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Why Competition Never Possible Before is Now Likely – A Multi-Part Series. (Read Parts 1-8 here.)

When I began this series two months ago, I envisioned it being a three-part feature. But as these installments appeared I received more and more encouragement from across the industry, along with other new ideas that merit the industry’s attention. And events continue to pop like firecrackers in a long string.

I’d already singled out comScore as a larger player amongst the companies stepping up to furnish needed data before Nielsen gets its act together, pointing out that comScore has already overtaken Nielsen in digital. Today, both digital and TV have already experienced the fabled convergence. WPP’s nine-figure investment in comScore on a worldwide basis, since our prior post, underscores and validates this whole series, and in particular the central role of comScore in any future solution. In envisioning the future, ask yourself, which other players noted in this series would add a lot to comScore’s chances in a TV showdown with Nielsen?

Funny how buzzwords rise and fall. Back in its heyday as a buzzword, “convergence” became so important that astrologers presaged the coming Harmonic Convergence and a band called itself Harmonica Virgins.

Then Nielsen called its actual, real-data, no-fusion panel, with TV and digital in it, it’s Convergence Panel. That panel consists of people who have gone through years in the Nielsen TV panel. Having just been rotated out of the panel for MRC-related quality reasons, the same people are re-recruited to serve another tour of duty pushing buttons when watching TV (electronic diary), and now additionally allowing passive software to be downloaded onto their computers to measure where they go and what they do online.

This re-recruitment of homes that were just retired for quality purposes is the kind of compromise that would have been unthinkable to Art Nielsen Sr. Today, the Nielsen Convergence Panel has reached around 11,000 homes, of which about a quarter can be matched to Nielsen’s Catalina data, approximately 2500-3000.

TRA/comScore and TRA/Datalogix are doing studies regularly now where instead of 2500-3000 homes, they have actual direct match, no-fusion data on TV, digital and CPG purchases on the same homes, always increasing and currently at over 1,000,000. These studies are also now matched regularly to GPS any-kind-of-store/theater visits for a very large proportion of the total sample. This is only one example of the ways in which much smaller companies are regularly embarrassing Nielsen at present.

Colleen Fahey Rush, CRO of Viacom and a major figure in the ARF/CIMM world of change agents within the leadership of the media community, has an adaptive strategy of using other suppliers along with Nielsen:

“Given that consumption of our content is far outpacing measurement of it, we are tapping into new sources of data to paint an accurate picture of viewership and engagement. We’re working with advertisers and agencies to tap new sources of audience data in ways that go beyond the exposure metrics we get from Nielsen. We believe this is the new golden age of television and we look forward to measurement truly reflecting that.”

Colleen is guided solely by the criterion of being the best possible partner to Viacom advertisers/agencies. This has been an investment not only of her own efforts but also in the cost of using multiple suppliers.

The cost of Nielsen, plus today’s cost of supplementing Nielsen, versus what other suppliers regularly charge for similar services (leaving aside the debate about quality for a second) is really the core issue.

Let us not lose sight of the fact that the costs for using all of the other suppliers combined, if bought to the max of their today-prices, would not add up to more than about 10% of Nielsen’s typical costs to a major subscriber.

In the next post in this series, what Univision believes has been left out of this story thus far.

(Editor’s Note: Remarks made by Bill Harvey, David Poltrack and Dave Morgan at the Television Effectiveness Summit will be summarized in an upcoming In Terms of ROI column. In the interim, some of that content will be posted at Bill’s personal blog.)

Bill Harvey is a well-known media researcher and inventor who co-founded TRA, Inc. and is itsBill Harvey Strategic Advisor. His nonprofit Human Effectiveness Institute runs his weekly blog on consciousness optimization. Bill can be contacted at bill@billharveyconsulting.com

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