Cross-Platform Measurement Moving Forward, Despite Setbacks

If there’s an objective that the media buy and sell sides can both get behind, it’s effective cross-platform measurement.

In a highly fragmented environment, media buyers are clamoring for the ability to identify, measure and reach unduplicated audiences across all media platforms and devices. And with traditional linear viewing declining, the television networks are equally eager for solutions that enable them to get credit for — and monetize — unduplicated viewership on the new platforms they’re pushing into, including VOD, SVOD and OTT.

The question, then, is not whether cross-platform measurement will become a reality. The questions are how long will it take for metrics generated by solutions encompassing all of the key platforms to be available to all parties involved and the public, and what solution or solutions will come to be most widely adopted as currency by the marketplace.

To state the obvious, the complexity of cross-platform solutions development from a technical standpoint is magnified by the intense pressure from both sides to get it right.



No one knows that better than Nielsen, which has been honing its umbrella Total Audience tool and its components for years, and has had to delay targets several times — including its intended rollout of the full capabilities of its all-encompassing Total Audience framework by early 2016.

As the industry is well aware, cross-platform’s momentum saw another setback late last month when Nielsen pulled back from its plan, announced last September, to make its Total Content Ratings (TCR) available through syndication to all networks, analysts and press as of March 1 of this year.

TCR, part of the Total Audience solution, is designed to provide audience data across live TV, DVR playback up to 35 days, VOD, connected devices, smartphones and tablets.

The delay of TCR’s rollout was in response to the urging of NBCUniversal and other network players who asserted that the tool wasn’t ready, citing concerns including inconsistency, lack of participation from the industry, and VOD and OTT measurement issues.

In announcing the pullback from the full rollout on March 1, Nielsen — which had intended to enable online analysis of TCR data by its media clients as of Jan. 1, but has instead been providing offline reports — maintained that there are no underlying methodological issues with TCR. TCR, it stressed, has been “extensively evaluated by clients who’ve implemented the measurement.”

However, in an effort to offer alternatives acceptable to all clients, Nielsen instead announced a “limited commercial release” as of March 1. Publishers will have the option of sharing their own TCR data — but not competitors’ — with agencies, the media and other external parties. Publishers can see competitive data and use it for internal evaluation. Nielsen isn’t releasing a new target date for full commercial rollout of TCR, instead saying it will revisit this at an unspecified time in the future.

Obviously this means that agencies won’t, for now, have access to TCR data from the full complement of publishers, limiting the tool’s use for comparative and analytical purposes.

Nor is Nielsen alone in encountering obstacles. This past Monday, chief audience measurement rival comScore was in the news for a problem not related to methodology, at least in regard to audience metrics. comScore saw its stock plunge after it warned that it could be delisted from Nasdaq because it will be unable to meet the Feb. 23 deadline for filing its 2016 financial report and restating its financials for 2013-2016. While that deadline already represented the maximum extension Nasdaq can provide under its bylaws, comScore is appealing for more time, according to MarketExclusive — which points out that, in fairness, comScore’s struggle to file is the result of a massive internal financials review that it undertook based on its own investigation.

The Good News
Those developments aside, Nielsen, comScore/Rentrak and other players continue to push forward on cross-platform, and wins are being scored amid the inevitable setbacks along the rocky road to that metrics utopia. This week saw two pieces of positive news, in fact.

Nielsen announced that its Digital in TV Ratings (DTVR) solution has now been accredited by the Media Rating Council (MRC). DTVR measures linear TV viewing occurring on desktop and mobile devices for participating programming sources. It enables programmers to account for viewers across devices as long as the program content and commercials match the linear TV airing. Those results are combined with traditional linear audience metrics for inclusion in the C3/C7 and local average quarter-hour measurement.

Launched in 2015, DTVR is already in use by networks including ABC, CBS, Freeform and Univision. But MBR accreditation, in Nielsen’s own words, “provides media buyers and sellers with an additional level of confidence.” Nielsen claims that DTVR is the first solution measuring the contribution of digital audiences to TV program ratings to be MRC-accredited.

This week’s other cross-platform announcement was from the digital identity firm Drawbridge, which is adding programmatic TV capabilities to its cross-device platform. The aim: Offering its managed-service and self-service platform clients the opportunity to optimize cross-device impact by extending their first- and third-party audience data into linear TV. Brands will be able to bid on and buy linear TV inventory directly through the Drawbridge DSP and reach the same first- or third-party audience segments on both TV and digital, reported Real-Time Daily.

comScore’s Next Cross-Platform Move
More steps forward are underway, and more announcements are expected in the months ahead.

comScore introduced its first syndicated cross-platform measurement product, Xmedia, in late 2015. The company, which merged with Rentrak last year, reports that Rentrak’s set-top box data have now been incorporated into Xmedia, which provides integrated, unduplicated audience data from TV, desktop and mobile, for both video and text.

Currently, comScore/Rentrak is pushing forward on development of Extended TV, its cross-platform TV audience and ratings product, which will launch later this year, according to comScore Inc. VP, corporate marketing Andrew Lipsman. The product, now in private review with charter clients, will provide person-level show ratings data across linear and time-shifted TV and digital platforms, he tells Audience Buying Insider.

Players outside of heavyweights Nielsen and comScore/Rentrak are also seeking to influence or even compete in the cross-platform solutions arena.

As noted in ABI, GABBCON, an audience-based conferences company, last year brought together a working group of leading DSP and SSP platform providers, data and other solution providers, as well as representatives from publishers/networks including CBS, NBC and Fox and some agencies, to develop an open, automated linear broadcast cross-device standard, dubbed ABCDS.

About eight months ago, the group released a V2 that incorporates user enhancements, and 13 companies are now using that technical specs API to help automate the planning, buying and optimization of video and television inventory, says CEO and founder Gabe Greenberg. V3, which should be released this month or soon thereafter, will include standards for addressable media (not just television) that seek to streamline the currently heavily manual compilation of varying audience data sets by trying to standardize how audience segment requests are prepared, he says.

Further, Greenberg says that Clypd, TubeMogul, Fox and some other group members are also working on a new tool that seeks to “solve for some of the issues” with cross-device television/video measurement across linear addressable, OTT and digital. Specifics will be revealed after testing by buyers with some of the media agencies now participating in the group’s work, he says.  

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