Horizon's Koenigsberg Slams C3 Ratings

GroupM's Rino Scanzoni may have served as the pied piper for ushering in the era of "C3" ratings, but at least one agency that felt he moved too aggressively while the upfront was in progress stands firm.

Horizon Media CEO Bill Koenigsberg, whose agency handles the immense Geico account, said Wednesday the "C3" shift has "backfired"--benefiting networks by "creating an artificial tightening of the marketplace" that's sent scatter prices soaring. Furthermore, he reiterated the oft-cited issue that the new ratings are not accredited by the Media Rating Council, leaving their reliability in doubt.

"My competitors forced the "C3" position on the networks," Koenigsberg said at a panel discussion. "I don't think that it was the intelligent thing to do this year."

Scanzoni did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Horizon had pushed to continue using "live only" ratings again this season--and had some success in negotiations. But with GroupM leading the charge, the domino effect to make "C3" the dominant currency in the marketplace was difficult to halt. "C3" refers to the new ratings covering commercial viewing during the "live" broadcast and three days of DVR-aided viewing.



After the panel, Koenigsberg said his agency felt that even with DVR viewing added into the mix, the commercial ratings would lead to lower GRPs and a resulting drop in supply, giving networks an advantage and opportunity to raise prices. (Horizon is an independent agency, unlike GroupM's affiliation with WPP Group.)

The first batch of commercial ratings for this season is yet to come, but program ratings are down--suggesting that total GRPs will fall. Another factor affecting supply is the makegoods that networks owe advertisers.

While some media shops, such as GroupM, may have been enticed by the opportunity to gain insight into whether their commercials are being viewed with the new ratings, Koenigsberg said he didn't understand the rush to switch.

"I think we needed more information before we were ready to fully embrace it," he said after the event--which also involved prominent industry executives Carat & Isobar U.S. CEO Sarah Fay; Jon Mandel, CEO of NielsenConnect; Mediaedge:cia research chief Lyle Schwartz and Initiative chief activation officer Tim Spengler.

Still, although Koenigsberg said "the horse was let out of the barn way too early," he conceded that "C3" is "here to stay."

Nielsen's Mandel did add the currency could evolve and be more insightful--"we're constantly improving (the ratings)"--but the buyers and sellers have so far only agreed on "C3." Looking for a further agreement, he added, is "more difficult than herding cats."

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