TVB Floats Creative Proposal For Local Ratings

After considerable posturing, agency and network executives drew up the C3 Compromise for the national marketplace several years back. It seems to be working. Or, neither wants to go through the difficult process of upending the currency again.

The philosophy was if buyers get the benefit of an element of commercial ratings (C), then networks would gain some added rating points from DVR viewing over the three days after broadcast (3).

Hammering out a deal on a dominant currency in the local broadcast market has been far more knotty. That’s not entirely surprising given the market’s complexities: hundreds of stations in diverse markets; buyers from sophisticated national agencies as well as tiny local ones; the common practice of ads being preempted at the last minute; and loads of data. (Some clients have been buying stations weekly for decades and, well, as long as business is good, those are all the ratings they need.)

Still, for any who’ve harbored hope that some form of commercial ratings, or even C3, would make it into the local market, give up the ship. In an interview with TVNewsCheck, Nielsen executive Steve Hasker reiterated the measurement company has no plans to offer them.

So, buyers and sellers are left to find a middle ground with old-style program ratings, while finding an equitable way to include DVR viewing in a currency. The end goal for both sides seemingly is to come as close as possible to approximating a C3 rating.

The TVB is pushing for a “live plus same day” stream, noting 70% of time-shifted viewing occurs in the same day as a broadcast. So, it says that yields a pretty close number to a C3 rating.

Nielsen’s Hasker, however, told TVNewsCheck that when evaluating a “live” and “live plus same day” rating the “data is not declarative either way” on which most resembles C3. He went on to say that Nielsen won’t back the use of one currency over another, but plans to provide more data that will “show people the relationship between ‘live’ and ‘live plus same day’ and how that compares to C3.”

Still, “live plus same day,” arguably offers an advantage for the sell side. An advertiser has a strong chance of paying for a skipped ad there.

So, TVB chief Steve Lanzano is floating a creative alternative: "live plus three with an adjustment factor."

He concedes it could use a snappier brand a la C3.

But, at its core, it attempts to bring some commercial ratings to local TV. The key figure is an estimated 50% of the ads watched with a DVR are skipped.

So, the TVB proposal would take both the “live” rating and the “live plus three day” rating -- and use the median as the final number. So, if “The Voice” gets a 3.0 for a “live” broadcast and a 4.0 in the “live plus three” stream, then the market would work off a 3.5.   

“If you say the broadcaster wants credit for a time-shifted rating, if you say advertisers don’t want to pay for people skipping through commercials, take an adjustment factor of 50% for time shifting,” Lanzano said. “If you look at that number and compare it to C3, it’s frighteningly close to C3 ratings.”

The 50% skip rate could change, so Lanzano says he’d be willing to monitor it, and alter the adjustment factor commensurately.

Maribeth Papuga, executive vice president in charge of local broadcast at MediaVest, said it would be hard to turn a rating with factoring into “an industry standard,” without accreditation from the Media Rating Council and “a lot of litmus tests around it.”

“We all want a solution and we all want better accountability at the local level,” she said. “The challenge now is it’s just a very complicated marketplace, and the data we have to look at is a lot -- and to add one more factor to what we have to do, I don’t think you would find consensus.”

Lanzano acknowledges there would be some distance to go to build that, but hopes to continue moving the ball forward on a difficult playing field.

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