Looking to capitalize on a new opportunity in multi-platform sales, AMC is using a single rating that combines TV and online viewing as a currency. The initiative is propelled by a fledgling Nielsen data stream that produces an aggregated C3 rating for viewing on the two screens.
AMC is using the unified C3 rating for three originals: “The Walking Dead,” “Talking Dead” and “Hell on Wheels.”
In order to calculate the number, the Nielsen system requires that the same commercial structure in the TV broadcast also be used in online streams. AMC is garnering its online viewership from TV Everywhere distribution, where cable operators offer episodes to their paying TV customers.
The ratings bump and subsequent revenues that AMC is receiving from the online addition is minimal so far. The Oct. 16 premiere of “The Walking Dead” produced only a 1.7% lift for the 18-to-49 demo.
Nonetheless, Nielsen notes "The Walking Dead" debut received the largest contribution from online viewing inside its “extended screen” product thus far. Turner is the only other programmer receiving the service.
But the numbers will inevitably grow. The key here is AMC is establishing a negotiating framework with advertisers on the relative ground floor.
AMC so far is only getting online ratings from TV Everywhere arrangements with three operators. As the network cuts more of those deals, the potential audience will rise.
“Over time as this becomes bigger, we’ll be able to determine the ultimate scale of what this will be,” said Tom Ziangas, who heads research at AMC Networks.
Growth will also come as Nielsen is able to include viewing on iPads and other mobile devices in the unified C3 stream. Nielsen expects iPad calculations by the end of 2012. (C3 ratings take into account commercial viewing during the three days after intitial broadcast.)
AMC should also benefit as it continues to add original programming. Unlike the movies it airs, it has rights to online distribution for those shows.
Like every network with multi-platform distribution, Ziangas said “we just want to make sure as we move forward that we are getting credit for all viewing possible.”
Nielsen starting making its “extended screen” option available in April. Ziangas spent many months reviewing the test data before deciding spending the considerable money to subscribe would be worth it.
Nielsen is hoping other networks start agreeing with him. Partly hoping to inspire its sales force that pitches the product, Nielsen touted in an internal memo “The Walking Dead’s” success, mentioning it received a gain of about 140,000 homes from online consumption.
“Early on there were some small numbers … the key here is ‘hey, there’s a new water mark as far as a show goes,” said Brian Fuhrer, a Nielsen senior vice president, about the missive.
Come “Mad Men’s” return to AMC next year, he might have grist for a more forceful one.