NBCU Expects to Find New Measurement Plan Partners by September

NBCUniversal intends to identify a group of partners for its ambitious measurement plans by mid September — and traditional measurement companies like Nielsen and ComScore are in the mix, the company disclosed Tuesday.

NBCU on Monday unveiled its ambition to launch a new, independent measurement system for advertisers, an eyebrow-raising maneuver that takes place as Nielsen, long the main purveyor of  measurement of TV audiences, is seeking a temporary hiatus from the media industry’s accreditation of its national ratings service. The Comcast-backed media conglomerate intends to wrap  its search process for partners by September 20,and will begin to integrate those companies’ data into a new product over the following six months.

NBCU has issued requests for proposals to 54 different companies, including Nielsen, ComScore and DataPlusMath, as well as entities such as  Conviva, Truthset, VideoAmp and iSpot that are focused on streaming. NBCU intends to work with a “collection of providers offering different pieces,” the company said Tuesday. NBCU has no set total in mind, but has collected responses from an estimated 80% of the 54 companies it initially contacted, and has extended its deadline for others.

The company believes it can “help to accelerate in bringing forward the best measurement yardsticks for our marketers, as we believe accurately measuring our performance is essential in this changing and complex media environment,” says Kelly Abcarian, executive vice president of measurement and impact at NBCU’s ad-sales and partnerships unit.

NBCU’s move could inject a healthy degree of chaos into the usually staid business of measuring TV audiences. TV advertisers have long set their rates based on Nielsen ratings of the audiences for specific shows. As more people watch their favorite dramas, comedies and, increasingly, sports, via streaming services and mobile video, however, Nielsen’s tabulations are less valuable than they once were. Advertisers increasingly want to know not only how many people watched a specific program, but the shopping habits and proclivities of those consumers as well. Those specifics are becoming easier to identify thanks to digital tracking and the splintering of audiences into smaller, more discrete groups around particular types of programming.

The desire to create new measurement could also spur some backlash. Advertisers use Nielsen because it is regarded as independent from the media companies it measures. Longtime TV sponsors may regard new audience yardsticks created by a company that broadcasts TV with a healthy degree of skepticism.

Still, the industry has known about its measurement issues for years and, despite several notable efforts, has yet to coalesce around a new system for tabulating audiences. Meanwhile, entertainment companies are moving quickly to accommodate consumer shifts, such as making first-run movies available to subscribers of streaming venues or counting audiences for sporting events who watch them in bars or other so-called “out of home” venues. All of these create new scenarios that require a different methodology to measure audience response.

“The change in distribution is allowing for better ad experiences and better measurement and we want to help our advertisers take advantage of this to grow their brands,” says Abcarian.

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