MIAMI BEACH, FLA. — As one of the television industry’s biggest international executive and program-selling conferences slowly began its first day of sessions and meetings, attendees at NATPE 2019 were delivered a major announcement that came not from the Fontainebleau resort but from an upscale Northern Virginia town close to Dulles International Airport.
Just after 9am Eastern, the Reston, Va.-based Comscore revealed that it now has a wider, more comprehensive partnership with Comcast‘s over-the-air television stations under the NBC and Telemundo banner.
It is another win — one of many recently — for Comscore, which is aggressively seeking to become the trusted alternative to television ratings currency provided by the media industry’s dominant data provider, Nielsen.
This multi-year deal, inked with NBCUniversal Owned Television Stations, includes 40 owned-and-operated television stations. It allows them to use Comscore’s linear TV currency, as well as its local mobile and desktop insights.
The new agreement also gives NBC and Telemundo owned stations access to Comscore’s automotive, political and consumer targeting segments.
It is not a replacement of Nielsen services, but sends a message that marketers and media demand accurate and comprehensive audience estimates and data in a world where watching video content on a smartphone may be more common than viewing it on a wired television with a set-top box.
Frank Comerford, Chief Revenue Officer and President of Commercial Operations at NBCUniversal Owned Television Stations, noted, “As our industry continues to evolve and consumers’ consumption preferences change, Comscore’s currency will help us strengthen the way we already do business. As the only station group to have the ability to reach English, Spanish and bilingual audiences, Comscore’s suite of tools will make it even easier for clients and advertisers to optimize their investments in our stations.”
While Nielsen’s measurement of television via Return Path Data measurement “RPD+” is well known, with the 2018 retirement of diaries in 137 markets, Comscore’s decade-plus experience measuring television viewership from return path devices in all 210 local markets may not be so top-of-mind.
For Comscore, some of its selling points involve “advanced audiences,” which it says allows the industry “to go beyond age and gender to transact on consumer behaviors, interests and lifestyles. This enables TV stations, networks, advertisers, agencies and media companies at the local and national levels to effectively find and reach their ideal audiences to maximize their success.”
Comscore CEO Bryan Wiener said, “We are excited to see our partners’ – both on the local and national levels – growing confidence in Comscore’s linear TV currency. In this increasingly dynamic media landscape, it’s clear that forward-looking partners like NBC and Telemundo owned stations are looking for a modern currency that more aptly represents their audiences, so they can provide their local and national advertisers with more relevant insights across platforms and markets.”
NBC and Telemundo local television stations serve 28 markets and include two national multicast networks, COZI TV and TeleXitos. The local stations can be viewed in 37% of U.S. homes and in Puerto Rico.
For Comscore, the NBC deal puts the company further in acceleration mode as it seeks to win over broadcast TV station owners. Thus far, Nexstar Media Group and Gray Television are standouts.
Nexstar ended the legacy Media General/Nielsen agreement a few weeks ago.
Gray has opted to use Comscore data exclusively. In a December note to “valued media partners” from VP/National Sales Becky Meyer, obtained in full by RBR+TVBR, Gray wass less than kind to Nielsen.
“After lengthy and careful consideration, Gray Television has concluded that it does not have sufficient confidence in the new methodology recently adopted by Nielsen Media Research to justify our continued reliance on Nielsen’s viewership measurement in our markets,” Meyer said. “Meanwhile, through our use of comScore systems in about two dozen markets over the past few years, we have seen data that appears to reflect more accurately consumer viewership of those stations across multiple platforms. Consequently, Gray will not renew its contract with Nielsen Media Company that expires on December 31. Instead, Gray intends to subscribe to comScore for all of its current television stations.”
A future return to Nielsen could happen down the road. Gray’s Meyer says it will “continue to monitor, and where possible, participate actively in advancements in viewership measurement as well as automated order processing.” Likewise, Gray will work directly with its stations and its media partners to ensure a smooth transition to comScore measurement systems, she added.
Nielsen Local Managing Director Jeff Wender declined to address Gray’s decision when contacted by RBR+TVBR in December. Rather, he spoke positively of how Nielsen is “transforming” how local TV is measured.
“We have implemented a series of enhancements over the past year, including retiring diaries and launching a local cross-platform planning solution to make the process of buying local TV and radio more efficient,” Wender said. “We continue to work closely with our clients across all local markets nationwide to ensure our measurement meets their needs and allows them to transact with confidence.”
Those clients include CBS.
After all of the noise and back-and-forth statements, along with suggestions that Comscore was about score a big new partner in lieu of the nation’s dominant audience measurement data services provider, Nielsen and CBS Corp. struck a new deal on January 14.
This put an 11-day stalemate to an end — along with threats from CBS that it would follow Gray’s lead.
On January 3, CBS issued a statement suggesting that the company and Nielsen were far apart on a new agreement.
“The entire media industry is aware of the need for complete and accurate measurement across platforms,” CBS said. “While Nielsen has made some strides in this area, progress has not been what we and many clients would like, and local TV measurement is particularly challenged.”
With its unhappiness unclear, CBS added, “Nielsen continues to use their market power to bundle disparate services and raise prices for services that don’t sufficiently address ongoing changes in the industry. As a result, we are currently at a contractual impasse, although we continue to be open to negotiating a fair deal that makes strategic and financial sense for CBS. If we cannot come to an agreement with Nielsen, we will continue to employ the many viable alternatives available to us, including Comscore.”
Eight days later, it appears that “fair deal that makes strategic and financial sense” came from Nielsen.
What does Nielsen have to say about NBC and Telemundo’s newly expanded pact with Comscore?
A Nielsen spokesperson told RBR+TVBR at NATPE 2019, “Our job is to accurately reflect the viewing audience regardless of who is watching and on what screen. To that end, Nielsen is the only company that can ensure accurate representation of all ethnicities and socioeconomic classes across the entirety of the U.S. in its measurement down to the persons level. For these reasons, the industry relies on Nielsen’s accredited measurement to underpin more than $130 billion in advertising that is transacted each year.”