These deals mattered a lot in the olden days, when broadcasters were heavily dependent on commercial revenues to fund their business. Today — not so much. Broadcasters are almost all part of larger content creation and distribution networks, making money from retransmission and affiliate fees, content reruns, subscription based platforms, etc.
Most broadcasters distribute their channels multiplatform, so you can watch them on TV, on your cable on-demand, option, via third-party on-demand platforms like Hulu or Amazon, on a cable network or even through their own platforms (CBS and ABC/Disney all have offerings; more will follow).
And the way advertising is being sold is fragmenting right along with the platform and distribution evolution. Upfronts used to be about securing desirable prime-time, daytime, late-night and sports spots. But today, buying a spot in a prime-time slot means you will reach only a portion of the total audience of a given TV show, which is now made up of the combination of live viewing plus viewing on all other distribution platforms plus delayed viewing via all channels and platforms that offer the shows on their respective outlets.
This means that if you want to buy the audience that watches new episodes of “Roseanne” or “The Bachelor,” you will need to buy a multitude of spots and slots from a wide array of sellers. And while “live viewing” is still important, all that other viewing matters now as well.
It matters so much, in fact, that Turner Broadcasting president David Levy and other Turner executives are suggesting the industry should do away with the Nielsen rating, reported Alex Weprin in Television News Daily.
That is quite a shocking idea. Not so much that the rating has to evolve — it must. But to kill the Nielsen rating is a similar seismic shift to when the EU adopted the euro, and the French franc and other local currencies went away. That took some doing, if you recall, and there were outliers who went their separate way (the U.K., Norway, Switzerland).
In its upfront presentation, Turner encouraged advertisers and media buyers to sponsor the whole lot, not just a 30-second spot. And while you could say “of course they would — that way they sell more at a higher price,” it’s also true that advertisers in search of an audience should look beyond silos to holistic audience delivery.
The danger is that Turner and other broadcasters fragment audience measurement across a multitude of company-owned-and-operated measurement systems. My prediction (and hope) is that the industry will stick with a consolidated idea and currency of what a viewer, and therefor a rating, is. It will (and must!) be different from today — but it must be an industrywide-accepted standard.