ABC Says No Deal For Media Agencies That Want Live-Only Ratings

ABC might finally be fast-forwarding an end to the upfront market all by itself. The network's focus over new ratings that include DVR viewing is now a public debate.

Mike Shaw, president of advertising for ABC, told Mediaweek that he does not plan to write business for the 2006-2007 upfront with media agencies that insists on dealing only with live ratings, which don't take into account any DVR viewing.

If agencies balk, that would mean an end to about 25 percent of the upfront market. If all the networks go the same way, the upfront could disintegrate, or at best drag out through the summer. (Not only that, but the bums in New York's Bryant Park will starve, having to look elsewhere for some half-eaten upfront party ABC sushi.)

Shaw's public statement is actually only half right. Media agencies don't want to negotiate off of live ratings that include DVR viewing. They actually want a discount from current "live"-only ratings. This is because Nielsen, since the mid-1980s, has included all VCR recording into ratings, whether a taped show has been viewed or not.



ABC can talk because like last year, it has a good chance to be in a position to lead the market in the upfront. That is, if Fox fails. Fox is doing its usual last-minute sprint to the finish line, with "American Idol" and "24" driving the upfront train.

Jon Nesvig, president of advertising sales at Fox, was somewhat diplomatic: "Public proclamations serve no purpose in this discussion."

The mystery is why Shaw's remarks are seemingly news. Several weeks ago, the networks' senior research executives held a joint press conference to warble on about how there is a value to advertisers with "live plus seven day ratings," ratings that include DVR viewing. The research executives proclaimed their respective networks would push for compensation from advertisers to adjust for this fair value.

Not everyone on the sell side is in unison, however. At least one cable network, the Hallmark Channel, as reported by MediaDailyNews, conceded media agencies might have won this battle, that it would be fine in selling just "live" ratings to advertisers for at least this upfront.

As the rubber meets the upfront road, expect more proclamations, or squealing brakes at media-dealing intersections.

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