New TV Math: CBS Likes Internet Addition

TV ratings should be easy enough for people to digest -- or add up.

Patrick Keane, vice president and chief marketing officer for CBS Interactive, wishes there would be a system that could do simple summing: like adding the ratings of CBS' still-troubling TV show, "Jericho," to the show's online video viewing.

Using CBS research, he estimates the show would gain just about one full rating point to a 5.1 household rating, from 4.2 -- giving the drama some new life in the eyes of advertisers and analysts.

But the bottom line is, advertisers still put Internet viewing and traditional TV viewing in two different buckets -- with different valuations. The positive: The networks tout high Internet costs per thousands, which can be three to four times that of a traditional TV episode -- because less-cluttered advertising messages provide higher levels of engagement.  

The problem: Total out-of-pocket costs still amount to crumbs -- akin to so-called "digital dust."

An extra rating point for a traditional TV show can mean a lot -- especially in key demos.  For example, a 2.3 rated among 18-49 viewers for Fox's new drama, "New Amsterdam" makes it a borderline case to return next year.

But as a 3.3-rated show, it becomes a solid performer -- given the current state of network rating points. Five years ago a mid-three rated show would have been questionable for another season.

Proponents will say it should be easy to come up with an Internet/traditional TV formula. Having a simple metric will offer good value to the advertiser -- and good PR value for a network.  

CBS can only hope that Nielsen, or someone else, can offer up a new currency for all this to happen -- and soon.

Then again, five years from now, "Jericho"'s current traditional TV numbers will look good. If a new measuring system doesn't arrive soon, CBS could always pray for sustained high-single-digit CPM percentage price hikes. Those numbers will always add up



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