WarnerMedia Sets VideoAmp & Others for Measurement Alternative
Nielsen among the companies that don’t make the cut—at least for now
By Jason Lynch
WarnerMedia has taken a big step in its efforts to create a measurement alternative to Nielsen—and for now, it’s keeping the measurement behemoth on the sidelines as it does so.
The company has selected three measurement companies to partner with as it tests alternative methods of measuring TV ad performance across platforms: Comscore, iSpot.tv and VideoAmp.
That trio was picked following conversations over the past several months with between eight and 10 measurement companies, including Nielsen, TVSquared and 605, said Andrea Zapata, head of research, data and insights for WarnerMedia Ad Sales.
Last November, WarnerMedia first announced plans to create a measurement alternative to Nielsen following that company’s public stumbles last year related to audience undercounting during the pandemic (after the Media Rating Council stripped Nielsen’s national and local TV ratings services of their accreditation in September, Nielsen admitted last month that it had undercounted out-of-home audiences for national TV programming since September 2020). Media rivals NBCUniversal and ViacomCBS are also working on new industry options.
WarnerMedia’s criteria in choosing measurement partners: “Who can do some of the things that we really think are vital for reach, frequency and de-duping across platforms against an advanced audience set? And who has the right roadmap and investments to, if they don’t have it now, get it here in the future?” said Zapata. “We knew that none of them can do it all.”
ISpot.tv made the cut because that company “already had a repuation of being a real-time TV ad measurement and attribution platform, and they’ve been measuring CTV against linear for a while now, so deduping is part of what they’ve already done,” said Zapata.
“From offering attention rates to business outcomes at scale, a fresh, transparent approach helps brands invest with confidence, enables WarnerMedia to demonstrate the value it delivers and ultimately allows both to create a better experience for consumers,” said Stuart Schwartzapfel, svp of media partnerships at iSpot, in a statement.
Comscore, meanwhile, is “the OG of working with big data. We are also doing a beta with their addressable product right now, and they’re one of the few that actually has a viable product for measuring against addressable,” said Zapata.
“WarnerMedia has been a partner for nearly two decades and we are proud to have helped support all of their innovative solutions and believe this test and learn will bring the most value to the marketplace,” said Carol Hinnant, chief revenue officer of Comscore, in a statement.
As for VideoAmp—which is also partnering with ViacomCBS and Dentsu on a pilot that will utilize its data—“they’re making the right investments in the right partnerships, not only thinking about planning /forecasting, but also thinking about how they’re not just looking at set top box data, but co-mingling that in a smart way with ACR data,” said Zapata.
“This is a pivotal moment as the industry makes a once in a lifetime shift away from legacy television currencies to solve decades old problems that have plagued the advertising ecosystem,” said Ross McCray, founder and CEO of VideoAmp, in a statement. “VideoAmp is prepared to do whatever it takes to support our customer’s mission.”
Nielsen is ‘just not there yet’
That left Nielsen on the outside looking in, though Zapata noted that “we’re still partners with Nielsen,” and they still have the largest part of WarnerMedia’s overall measurement investment.
However, as WarnerMedia took a closer look at the company’s new Nielsen One cross-platform metric, it determined that “they’re just not there yet,” said Zapata, adding that she wanted to start testing in Q1. “They have our past, they have our present … they’ll have a part of our future when we feel like there’s something there.”
Zapata said that other measurement companies could be tapped to contribute down the road, when WarnerMedia expands the process later this year to include attention metrics and outcomes-based solutions.
Next up: Zapata and her team are working with the major holding companies to find the right clients to participate in this test and learn—she expects to make those announcements next month.
Merger’s impact unclear
The company hopes to transact on “a small pool of our inventory” on this alternative currency in this year’s upfront. “We’re not changing the world overnight,” said Zapata. “We’re just going to be better positioned in the next two to three years to know more than what we know now.”
Of course, looming over all of this work is WarnerMedia’s imminent megamerger with Discovery, which execs hope will be completed by mid-year. Zapata said she could not comment how her measurement work might be affected by the merger, or whether Discovery CEO David Zaslav, who will head up the new company, has taken an interest in her team’s efforts.
But last August, Zaslav excoriated Nielsen’s “very antiquated delivery system” during an investors call, and said he hopes the industry is able to “leave them in the dust, because they just can’t get it together.”
*Title shortened for brevity