“It’s a pivotal time for local TV,” notes TVB President/CEO Steve Lanzano.
Indeed, with the new fall season about to start and excitement about ATSC 3.0’s future possibilities – including addressable advertising – there are many who believe broadcast television stands on the precipice of a grand transition.
It’s a shift that begins, as Lanzano sees it, with a wholesale shift in how TV is measured.
NBCUniversal on Sept. 11 announced it is on board. On Wednesday morning (Sept. 18), Hearst Television followed suit. CBS and ABC are ready to make the move.
But, are marketers and advertisers ready to embrace TV’s transition from a ratings-based audience measurement system to an impressions-based technique, and within months?
That’s a key goal for TVB and Lanzano, who is busily preparing for the annual TVB Forward conference on Sept. 26 in New York ahead of travel to the ANA Masters of Marketing Conference in Orlando, one of the nation’s premier events.
For TV’s main ad sales association and its leader, a change to impressions-based measurement of TV will more accurately measure all viewers on all screens. In turn, this will make it easier for comparisons with other media.
Speaking from New York, Lanzano noted that technological advances in how consumers are watching live and pre-recorded video content requires a shift in how measurement of TV shapes a marketer’s ad budget, its media buying and its media planning.
The timing could also be impactful to publicly traded TV companies that have seen their advertising revenue dip as marketers instead opt for local digital solutions.
“Obviously the entire ecosystem has changed and there are so many more outlets to share your video,” Lanzano says. “This is really a tipping point, in terms of agencies, in where they want to buy inventory. This will allow us to sell our digital assets along with our linear assets and do comparisons [in a much better way].”
There’s also a nod to automated buying in what the TVB seeks to push forward, as it “takes out all of the friction in terms of the transactions process,” Lanzano notes. “It is not efficacy. Rather, it is the efficiency of buying us.”
Moving to impressions, he adds, will allow for the use of data and better targeting.
Thus, when ATSC 3.0 gains critical mass, one can start doing one-to-one advertising to the TV viewer. For Lanzano, that’s a way TV can “outdigital digital” in terms of targeting with premium inventory. “And … we have it at scale,” he says.
CRYSTAL BLUE PERSUASION
In a Wednesday announcement, Hearst confirmed that its stations will “immediately” begin transacting advertising-sales agreements based on audience impressions — a metric, it explains, “reflecting a program’s viewer numbers and the sole common audience-measurement currency now applied across all video-viewing platforms.”
“We have always focused on providing large, quality audiences to our advertisers,” said Hearst President Jordan Wertlieb. “Today’s video marketplace requires contemporary measurement metrics.”
Hearst SVP/Sales Eric Meyrowitz added, “This is without question one of the most dynamic times in the history of our industry. Helping facilitate a change that ultimately allows for easier transaction across multiple platforms is something we are excited and eager to be a part of.”
Hearst says its decision coincides with TVB’s efforts.
Next are CBS and ABC. “We welcome the switch from ratings to impressions-based measurement here at the CBS Television Stations,” said CBS Television Stations Sales President Julio Marenghi. “We see this as the future currency and have already started working with clients using CPM modeling, giving us the ability to compete with other mediums. Spot TV has a history of CPM usage that went away and can now return to help keep local TV in the conversation with advertisers.”
Wendy McMahon, President of the ABC Owned Television Stations, also expressed her support of impressions-based currency. “The strength of our owned stations is in our commitment to serving our local communities across platforms,” she said. “We see the transition from ratings to impressions as aligned with the consumer shift to cross-platform viewing, a shift we have taken advantage of to grow total audience. We look forward to enabling our advertisers to have full visibility of that local audience and to extending the overall reach of their messaging.”
Where are advertisers and agencies?
“We didn’t have to persuade them to move to impressions,” Lanzano says. “It is less about the ‘why’ and more about the ‘how.'”
For the agency, the shift to impressions is about “making it easy to convert [Gross Rating Points] into impressions and back to GRPs if necessary,” Lanzano says.
Kathy Doyle, EVP of Local Investment at MAGNA, notes that IPG media agencies made the switch earlier this year. “Not only was it simple to do so, but it has also given us a unique insight into true local audiences,” she says.
But, what’s a media planner to do? The answer, says Lanzano, is to stay the course on what they do best. “You get the sigh when you say you should keep planning that way,” he reveals. “We can help you in doing the conversions. They get it. It is a win-win for everybody. It is really about the ‘how.’”
CLIENT CONVINCING: THE NEXT MOVE?
“As the local TV ad sales business evolves, and as audiences’ consumption habits change, so must the metrics we use to give marketers and advertisers measurement,” said Frank Comerford, Chief Revenue Officer and President of Commercial Operations for NBCUniversal Owned Television Stations.
With that statement, the entity that owns and operates both NBC and Telemundo broadcast TV stations on Sept. 11 shifted away from traditional ratings points to gauge an advertising campaign’s effectiveness, the first to make such a move.
With 2019-2020 Upfront dollars getting a post-May boost after flat activity before the annual cavalcade of new programming announcements and marketer pitches, the lone missing link in getting all on board with impressions-based measurement for broadcast TV could be the in-house CMO.
With Lanzano heading to ANA Masters of Marketing, he’ll have direct access to some of the biggest decision-makers in America on how to rethink broadcast TV advertising.
This includes Marc Pritchard, Chief Brand Officer of Procter & Gamble Co. and one of the most revered marketing leaders in the world today. Pritchard is big on diversity and inclusion, and the use of both radio and TV to reach consumers. Pritchard will be discussing “the reinvention of brand building” at a October 4 morning session.
If the push to impression-based measurement needs the CMO, Lanzano’s event attendance could prove beneficial to all in broadcast television. A seal of approval from Universal McCann and Carat USA certainly doesn’t hurt, either.
HOW IT ALL WORKS
Don’t think for a minute that the TVB is seeking for an alternative to data provided by dominant audience measurement services provider Nielsen or data provided by Comscore.
As Nielsen and Comscore already supply impressions data to buyers and sellers, Lanzano says local broadcast TV can continue to be planned on rating points while negotiated and purchased on impressions – how network TV is currently handled.
That said, the live same-day data based on quarter hour needs a rethinking.
“What we think should be the data stream, based on local, is ‘live plus one,’ as that is almost a perfect surrogate for C7 ratings,” Lanzano says. “We’ve been talking to agencies and marketers already on live plus one.”
This would provide a boost to valuable return path data already being used by Comscore and Nielsen thanks to agreements with several major MVPDs. For instance, if a viewer in New York were to be tuned to WABC-7, ABC could use that viewer data for a composite impression. Now, the same can be said of Hearst stations including its ABC affiliate in West Palm Beach, WPBF-25.
But, what if a New Yorker in Florida wanted to watch the WABC-7 newscast via the “NewsOn” app accessible on their Roku device? Could ABC be able to incorporate that data into its impressions? And, even better, what if that viewer was in the New York DMA and this method of watching local newscasts was their preferred choice?
The answer is yes, and yes. The NewsOn app has an SDK that measures, for Nielsen, viewership. This would allow any participating TV company to get an overall look of their newscast audience, giving the advertiser exactly what they want — total eyeballs, agnostic of what device they’re using.
“Every other media is measured on impressions, so I think our movement will be welcomed,” Lanzano says.
How can TVB guide agencies on how to switch their thinking?
“We’ve met individually with all of the major agencies, essentially consulting them on our learnings,” he concludes. “We’ve got the unanimous backing of all of the sellers. It is just up to the agencies at this point – they’re the buyers. We’re helping to move this along as quickly as possible.”