In a precursor to a more programmatic solution, independent media services agency U.S. International Media has struck a new kind of unwired network television deal, combining the coverage of two of the nation’s largest broadcast TV station owners -- the Sinclair Broadcast Group and Tribune Broadcasting Co. -- into a one-stop, single invoice television buy guaranteed and posted on Rentrak’s TV ratings, not Nielsen.
The deal, which will deliver near national reach at spot TV advertising costs, will roll up local audience delivery calculated on the basis of Rentrak’s market-by-market ratings derived from digital set-top usage. While unwired deals are not unprecedented in the broadcast TV ad marketplace, using Rentrak to measure the aggregate reach and delivery of audiences is a new twist. And according to USIM East Coast President Russell Zingale, it is an interim step toward more targeted, automated and programmatic ad buys with the local TV broadcasters.
While the first iteration of the deal utilizes a conventional unwired network structure -- basically rolling local coverage of stations into a national ratings estimate tied to a single invoice and a single negotiated guarantee -- Zingale said USIM is working with Sinclair and other broadcasters to develop more programmatic methods that could lead to more precise and more efficient audience targeting.
“Instead of going to ABC and NBC and negotiating a network buy, this enables us to get nearly as much reach, but with the efficiency of local broadcast,” he said, estimating that the combination of Sinclair and Tribune’s reach would garner about 80% coverage of U.S. TV households.
Zingale would not disclose what accounts USIM is utilizing the strategy for, but he said the deals were being done in conjunction with creative agency PlowShare, a Washington, D.C.-based agency that specializes in public service campaigns and big government accounts.
It’s not the first time USIM has leveraged innovative ways of buying local broadcast television in order to give its clients a direct competitive advantage. In 2009, MediaPost picked USIM as its independent media agency of the year for busting the local broadcast TV rep community’s oligopoly and began negotiating national spot ad deals directly with stations that wanted to do business that way with USIM. The strategy ruffled feathers and led to a suit by the rep community against USIM, which the agency won. USIM founder Dennis Holt said the reason for doing it has nothing to do with bypassing the rep’s commissions, but was a means of getting more direct access to local station inventory and talent, which was necessary to servicing his clients.
It’s the same approach that USIM has utilized in its approach to programmatic -- and the unwired deal with Sinclair, Tribune and Rentrak is a part of that progression, explained ZIngale, noting that it is just a means of getting closer to the local market inventory in order to get closer to the audiences that USIM’s clients want to reach.
“We are proceeding cautiously, but we think there is an opportunity to try doing things differently,” said Steven Pruett, vice president and co-COO of the Sinclair Television Group, who negotiated the deal and then reached out to Tribune to help build the coverage necessary to make it work.
“I think that’s important because over the years, broadcasters have seen money migrate to networks, in particular cable networks,” he continued, adding: “A lot of what we hear is, it’s the ease of acquisition of buying the time.”
While the initial deal will improve the operating efficiencies of buying national reach across local broadcast stations, Pruett said, “we are talking about programmatic.
“Fundamentally, programmatic has to come from companies that are willing to tie their footprints together. Before you can do it with automation maybe you want to see if you can do it period, while we wait for the technology to get there.”
This post was previously published in an earlier edition of Media Daily News.