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CBS Has A Plan B, And Its Name Isn’t Nielsen

Remember how last week in our TVREV predictions, number 10 was “Networks insist on adding ACR data to Nielsen”?

Well call us prescient yet again.

While at CES, we wound up talking with some people from CBS (the same CBS that’s currently beefing with Nielsen about how much they’re paying them and how they don’t really need them.)

And they, (who, as far as we know, had not read our predictions) were talking about how companies like Inscape and iSpot will be part of the future of measurement, both at CBS and the industry at large.

The rationale was the same exact one we based our prediction on: Second-by-second data from the over 9 million households that Inscape measures versus 40,000 paid Nielsen panelists.

Data that’s then utilized by companies like iSpot to create the sort of multitouch attribution that allows marketers to measure business outcomes.

That is a game changer, because now in addition to having more granular, glass level data on what viewers are actually watching, marketers are also able to gauge how effective TV is at driving results.

And that means an industry used to trading on GRP or impressions will now use that same measure for setting a baseline for performance and not as the metric they transact on.

It’s not rocket science, and CBS isn’t the only one talking about it either.

Earlier that same day, David Cohen, President of North America at Magna, was on a panel talking about how many in the industry are predicting that rather than measuring TV on impressions, the industry was likely  going straight to “business outcomes” as the primary unit of TV measurement.

So there’s that, and it means that this time, CBS no longer needs to go running back to Nielsen’s warm and expensive embrace.

But Does Nielsen Need CBS?

Nielsen seems well aware of that too. The Nielsen folks we caught up with at CES aren’t really worried about losing CBS entirely, and they’ve definitely gotten the memo that CBS really does have a lot of solid non-Nielsen options, options they can make very good use of.

Nielsen isn’t taking this all lying down either. The company offers its own flavor of ACR data from its Gracenote subsidiary, the asterisk there being that while Gracenote collects data from Roku and LG (Samsung having recently ended their long-term contract with Gracenote) only the latter allows that data to be shared with third parties, and LG’s market share is somewhere slightly south of 10%. That means Gracenote’s sample size is around one-third the size of Inscape’s.

For now.

Nielsen is in the process of suing Samba, which has contracts to collect data from many of the smaller OEMs. If Nielsen can pick up those contracts as part of the settlement, then Gracenote’s ACR footprint becomes larger, and thus a more valuable as a source of ACR data.

It Takes A Village

In our humble opinion, measurement needs to be a group effort, not a solo one.

It would be foolish for networks to cast their lot exclusively with Nielsen’s panels, when there are so many other options.

Notice we used the word “exclusively”.

That’s because we don’t think panels should be discarded. At least not permanently.

One of the many interesting takeaways from our upcoming TVREV special report on ad-supported OTT, was that most people we spoke with felt that TV would never have exact, digital-style measurement, nor did it need to.

We spoke to people working at brands, agencies and TV networks, and a sizeable majority felt that by combining the various ways of measuring TV—ACR data, multitouch attribution, set top box data, blockchain-based data … and panels, the industry could get to something that was very accurate, something that made it much easier for brands to target their ads.

The Future Is Addressable

While it’s going to take some time to get there, the future of TV advertising is addressable. Meaning that every household will be targeted differently depending on demographics, devices, locations and purchase habits.

In order to do that accurately, measurement will need to come from a variety of sources, especially given that viewers will be doing much of their viewing in a decidedly non-linear fashion, and that the entire notion of what constitutes “linear TV” may wind up morphing and shifting too. (More about that in our special report.)

That is why forward-thinking network executives are looking not so much to dump Nielsen, as to supplement them with other data sources that take into account other ways of measuring viewing. They realize that when it comes to measurement, “the more the merrier” really is the way to go.