Even thought cable networks tend to lose more viewers during commercial breaks than broadcasters, MTV and VH1 are using commercial minute ratings for upfront negotiations this year, reported The Wall Street Journal.
"When Nielsen Media Research proposed releasing ratings to measure viewing of TV commercials last year, most major cable networks were a little resistant, skeptical of the validity of the data. As recently as June 1, Philippe Dauman, CEO of Viacom, owner of cable giant MTV Networks, suggested the new ratings system wasn't ready to be used in ad negotiations.
…MTV Networks had followed other cable network groups in agreeing to negotiate "upfront" ad-sales deals for the coming fall season at least partly based on commercial ratings. The move by other networks to use the data made the MTV group realize it would have to acquiesce, said a person familiar with the situation. As of Friday, MTV Networks had finalized 80% of its upfront deals, people familiar with the matter said.
MTV will use traditional program ratings for the fourth quarter of this year, the beginning of the season, and take commercial ratings into account for deals for the first three quarters of next year."
Within the cable sector, networks whose audiences skew older and air more dramas like Lifetime Television and USA Networks are likely to fare better with the new data than some younger-skewing networks like MTV. In the most recent week of data from Nielsen, Lifetime, for instance, lost only 6% of its viewers during commercial breaks, compared with 12% for MTV.
Lifetime quickly embraced use of commercial ratings — and is pleased with the results. "Instead of sitting there and fighting [commercial ratings], we went for it," said John Matluck, senior vice president of advertising and sales."
According to reports, this year's cable upfront will hit between 6.5 and 7.5 billion.