TV’s Cry For Help

Welcome to the TV industry’s latest bit of magic … prestidigitalization. It’s a new twist on the old sleight-of-measurement trick. Here’s how it works. You buy TV the old-fashioned way because, well, that’s how you buy TV. The ratings suck. You want to pay less because you’re getting less. TV says, “You’re not getting less. Look at our newly crafted, data-driven metrics. We’re delivering premium audiences across omni-channel touchpoints and generating better return-on-ad-spends than ever!” If you can brush the buzzwords off your shoulder, you respond, “Yeah, but Nielsen says the ratings are down.” And TV triumphantly concludes, “Nielsen sucks! Here’s how we prestidigitally measure your success.”

Artisanal solutions don’t scale

As it turns out, TV is right. They do have newly crafted, data-driven metrics, and they can deliver premium audiences across omni-channel touchpoints, and Nielsen does suck. (Sorry Nielsen, I love you guys, I really do. I’ll defend you in a moment.)

At an unusual cross-industry meeting last week to discuss TV’s problems and ostensibly start fixing them, NBC Universal sales chief Linda Yaccarino said her company will try to wean itself off a single currency. That means Nielsen. The problem is that every TV sales group has devised artisanal, hand-crafted, un-scalable, data-driven metrics to justify your ad dollars. In some cases, metrics can even vary between different divisions of the same networks. There is no common currency that encompasses industry-accepted messaging units and the delivery of quality audiences.

Even if such a currency could be agreed upon, it would be so obviously biased toward a desired outcome, it would not have practical value. Look over there … let’s blame Nielsen!

Nielsen for better or for worse

It’s super easy to blame Nielsen for everything. Even with its investments in new technology, it has not adequately adapted to behavioral changes in media consumption­­—at least not in a way that favors TV. According to Nielsen, in 2016 (the last fully reported year) its revenues within the Watch segment (the TV ratings biz) increased 5.7 percent to $2.9 billion. Audience Measurement of Video and Text revenues increased 7.5 percent primarily due to its ongoing investments and continued client adoption of its Total Audience Measurement system. Nielsen has a de facto monopoly on ratings, and business is up, so it is not under any significant evolutionary pressure to do anything more than it is already doing.

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Author’s note: This is not a sponsored post. I am the author of this article and it expresses my own opinions. I am not, nor is my company, receiving compensation for it.

Shelly Palmer ...

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