TVB, the trade group representing local stations, offered up all kinds of data Thursday that at its core was an effort to forestall commercial ratings ever being used as currency in local markets. Some of the smartest media mathematicians – the types that can zip through equations with a VPVH and PUTs – might find it difficult to sort through what it published.
Such as: “Once standing at 13.5% above C3, Live + Same Day was 4% below C3 in February 2013; Live-only viewing was -4.6% below C3 in 2010 and dropped to -25% in February 2013.”
Go plot that on a graph. Or, have fun fact-checking it.
Regardless, the TVB agitprop is the currency employed mostly in metered local markets should give buyers confidence they are negotiating based on similar data to what’s used in the national TV market. So, whether they want commercial ratings or not -- which is used nationally -- why bother when those ratings are similar to the live streams used locally?
The dominant currency in the largest markets is "live plus same day." At its core, the stream collects a viewing average for a full program -- aired live and within a few hours after broadcast via a DVR. The average includes commercials.
So, obviously, the rating is going to be higher than an average of commercial viewing. Locally, as entertaining as the boisterous car dealer promising no monthly payments for a decade are, the ads probably aren’t going to attract as many viewers as what happens in “Grey’s Anatomy” or “Survivor.”
Nationally, a C3 currency is employed that uses an average of commercial viewing. Advertisers are paying based on viewing of their ads at least collectively. The compelling stuff in the program that raised ratings for decades has no role in what they pay.
The TVB membership wants no part of that. It wants to keep the words “commercial” and “ratings” as far away from each other as possible. It’s plenty satisfied with “live plus same day.”
That ratings stream not only gives them a lift from the programming content, but also doesn’t take into account any ads blazed through with DVRs.
There may have been a time when buyers conducted analyses and found that the difference between “live plus same day” and C3 wasn’t considerably different. And, TVB apparently has the research to continue that thrust.
But DVR use is accelerating. How long will the numbers remain similar enough that TVB chief Steve Lanzano can argue “live plus same day” locally “mirrors” national C3?
Buyers want commercial ratings in local markets. Too bad for them. They aren’t coming anytime soon. Nielsen has no announced plans to move in that direction, with arguments about a sample size being small and unstable. Then again, if buyers were willing to pony up the enormous costs to do it, Nielsen might change its mind.
Rentrak does offer second-by-second data that can offer an element of exact commercial ratings. Ironically, perhaps, some stations benefiting from “live plus same day” dislike Nielsen enough to go with Rentrak. But it’s never going to be the dominant market currency.
The TVB is safe. It doesn’t need its chairman Bill Fine to say: “It’s more and more apparent that Live + Same Day data is the best measure of actual TV viewing.” And not mention that it may not be the best measure of commercials viewed.