Zenith Makes Rentrak 'The' - Not 'A' - Currency For Local TV Buys

Characterizing it as “the beginning of a big industry change,” Zenith Media Chief Data Officer Rob Jayson this morning announced that the Publicis media agency will begin using Rentrak’s local TV audience measurement data as “the currency” for its local TV advertising buys.

While a number of big shops have begun licensing Rentrak and integrating its data into their planning and buying systems -- and presumably their negotiations with TV outlets -- Zenith is the first to shift from “a currency” to “the currency,” meaning it will be using Rentrak instead of Nielsen’s local TV ratings data.

The move comes as Nielsen has been scrambling to upgrade and overhaul its local TV measurement systems, including the addition of many more people meter homes beginning this season.



Without mentioning Nielsen by name, Zenith’s Jayson stated: “For the first time in industry history, we are replacing the low-response rate, highly unpredictable surveys and diaries with massive and passive measurement.”

The shift is a first-mover in many respects for Zenith, including the fact that a number of TV audience researchers are still divided on how representative Rentrak’s approach is, because it is derived from household-based set-top tuning data, and does not empirically measure or individuals or the demographic composition of those households.

That said, Jayson noted that the move from Nielsen to Rentrak will markedly improve other elements of its local TV buys, including the cost of measuring them.

“We expect to see significant reductions in costs for our clients as well as dramatically improved service,” he said, adding: “Every one of our clients is looking forward to the prospect of greater predictability and accountability. We expect that this new Rentrak-based currency will become the new gold standard for all of local TV ad spending and are excited about the prospect of significant change and improvement in our TV currency and trading. Rentrak information will help us open up a new era of TV negotiation through the use of modern data matching techniques, which enable us to trade on consumer audiences rather than broad demographics.”

3 comments about "Zenith Makes Rentrak 'The' - Not 'A' - Currency For Local TV Buys".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, October 3, 2014 at 8:24 a.m.

    While I'm one of those who is concerned about Rentrak's inability to provide viewer data, it must be admitted that the state of local market TV rating measurement, with its tiny samples, low cooperation rates, mixed methodologies, etc. is a mounting problem for advertisers and spot sellers. The reported new plan to drop diaries in approximately 150 smaller markets, accounting for 30% of the country's homes, and replace them with devices that pick up encoded signals to estimate set usage adds new dimensions to the problem. If the reports are accurate, then viewing data in such markets will be "estimated"----not measured---- based, mainly, on viewer-per-set ratios gleaned for similar shows in larger, nearby peoplemeter markets. It may well be that stations in smaller markets can't afford to pay for peoplemeters, but if Rentrak can do the same thing as the new proposal with a far larger sample, one can appreciate why its service seems more attractive. I wonder whether Nielsen will eventually abandon the smaller markets entirely or whether it may consider a cooperative deal with Rentrak to use the latter's set usage data on a broader basis in conjunction with peoplemeter viewing information to produce the numbers that buyers and sellers need. Let's hope that common sense prevails and the medium finally gets the quality of audience measurement it deserves on a local as well as a national level.

  2. Nicholas Schiavone from Nicholas P. Schiavone, LLC, October 3, 2014 at 4:55 p.m.

    The industry is fortunate to have Ed Papazian's unique, wise and experienced perspective in these crucial matters. From time to time, Ed and I enjoy differences on fine points of methodology, but in this matter, I am foursquare behind him when it comes to assessing the quality of local ratings and the media business transacted with them. Moreover, his assessments and reflections underscore the basis of my complete rejection of Nielsen's proposal to decrease the SE of miniscule cable networks by using "modeled" versus "measured" viewing data in the national panel. By estimating viewership, instead of tabulating it, Nielsen is shirking its responsibility to maintain the finest TV audience measurement in world and meet the terms of its MRC Accreditation through E&Y Audit. This is a grave matter. The transition of the national panel from NPM to GTAM/STPM that is underway right now is the most substantial change in Nielsen methodology & metering technology in over a quarter century. To pollute the quality of NPM's National TV Viewing Data through "injecting" "guessed at" (i.e., modeled) viewing data from numerous set meter-only households is the equivalent of pouring contaminated and untreated fracking fluid into the country's natural, pure water supplies, acquifers and artesian wells. Nielsen's proposal to address matters of accuracy, reliability and utility through the numerical equivalent of dangerous and irresponsble fracking will not only harm the "purity" of the business -- its TV ratings and media transactions -- but it will also cause an increase in abnormal, data "earthquakes" -- in the same way that fracking has lead to an unnatural earthquakes in places formerly undisturbed by the geological phenomena. The more Nielsen places its clients in jeopardy, the more likely those clients (e.g., Zenith) are to move to the only alternatives available, such as Rentrak. While one needs to carefully scrutinize the Rentrak data before it is embraced as currency, at least one can be confident that Rentrak's reporting systems and business collaboration are superior to Nielsen's at the moment. What a shame. Thank you, Ed, for helping us think more rigorously about a matter too important to be taken for granted. On wards and upwards.

  3. Nicholas Schiavone from Nicholas P. Schiavone, LLC, October 3, 2014 at 9:39 p.m.

    Perhaps why Zenith saw need to take action & issue a Press Release at 7 AM this morning...Please read this story by DEADLINE:

    "Ratings Mystery:
    Why Are ABC’s Fast Nationals Grossly Underreported?

    by Nellie Andreeva
    October 2, 2014 7:19am

    The new broadcast season is only 10 days old, and we already have the first ratings controversy. Pundits are scratching their heads over the abnormally big upward adjustments ABC’s series are getting every day in the final Live+Same Day ratings vs. the fast nationals.

    With the exception of this Monday ... ABC’s ... fast nationals in adults 18-49 and total viewers have been adjusted up every night. On eight of the nine nights, the entire ABC lineup went up in the finals. That is a total of 20 programs, all getting a lift without a single downward adjustment in 18-49. ... While no shows on the other broadcast networks have gotten an 18-49 lift larger than a tenth, a whopping six ABC series were adjusted up by two-tenths ... and probably the most puzzling ones, this Tuesday night’s debuts of comedies Selfie and Manhattan Love Story. The latter is one of the more obscure, not very well promoted new series, so for that many people to put a brand-new comedy with no name recognition on their DVRs and make a point of viewing it on premiere night is improbable.

    Then there are the jaw-dropping upward adjustments of three-tenths each for the season premieres ABC’s dramas Once Upon A Time and Resurrection this past Sunday. Observers call the .3 lifts unprecedented as nobody can think of a case of a single adjustment of that size to a regularly scheduled program with no overruns, let alone two on the same night. ...

    The conundrum has experts baffled. ...

    I hear ABC late last week approached Nielsen, which is reviewing the issue. There has been no explanation yet from the ratings measuring company.

    There also are no strong theories about what could be causing the lower ABC fast nationals. ...

    Attention seems to be focusing on Nielsen’s efforts to integrate viewing on other devices rather than TV sets in the ratings it reports. Some suggest it is possible that ABC viewers could be consuming more programming on such devices that takes longer to process, leading to their exclusion from the network’s fast nationals. Still, there are many upscale, young-skewing series on other networks that too would be conducive to consumption on such devices. It seems strange that not a single one of them would get the same .2 or .3 lift so many ABC shows have been receiving.

    There is no silver bullet yet in the case of the undercounted ABC fast national ratings. So until the problem is fixed, we have to be extra skeptical of these numbers. Fast national ratings in general are less and less reliable as more and more people opt for time-shifted viewing. Nielsen’s ABC problem takes that non-reliability to another level. ..."

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