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Week In Review: VAB Pushes Nielsen Harder, Discovery+ Now Available Via Amazon Channel Store

1. VAB Pushes Nielsen Harder

Linear TV ratings dropped last year, despite the nationwide lockdown and the networks are not happy about it. They’ve convinced the VAB to push back against Nielsen by pointing out a number of pandemic-related mishaps, including the decision to not send field agents out to ensure that the meters were working correctly and to fix ones that were not. 

The latest move is to demand the ratings be submitted to an independent auditor, the giant accounting firm Ernst and Young, who are employed by the MRC (Media Relations Council.)

The Upfronts are next month.

You do the math.

Why It Matters

No one really believes that linear ratings would have gone up if the Nielsen field agents had not erred on the side of caution and science. 

The networks are just hoping that Nielsen will cave a little, the way they did this summer with out-of-home ratings, and give them a few more points, which they can then use to get higher CPMs at the Upfronts.

It’s a noble effort given that many brands and agencies still don’t “get” streaming, think that it’s only appropriate for direct response campaigns and/or find it far too confusing to deal with.  While they’re in for a rude awakening as more and more of the audience they’re trying to reach shifts to streaming-only delivery, there’s no use denying that these types of marketers exist and that the group includes some of the industry’s biggest advertisers.

It’s more than a bit telling that the VAB’s complaint that field agents were not allowed into homes, only serves to point out how old school Nielsen’s methodology is, especially at a time when most viewing can be tracked digitally. 

That’s why the industry needs to move to more cross-platform measurement, using ACR and set top box data. This is something Nielsen themselves are looking to make happen–their updated system is due to launch next year–while other players, like iSpot, have already put cross-platform measurement systems into place. 

Still, we keep hearing how the networks aren’t just giving lip service to being over Nielsen this time and are actively looking at alternatives in order to be able to better integrate their streaming offerings. Bringing agencies and brands on board will be the challenge, though the same whispers are telling us that many of them are starting to come around too.

To be fair to Nielsen, those people meters are valuable in that they are one of the few non-probabilistic ways of determining who in the household is watching a particular show–ACR and set top box only measure households and use probabilistic data to drill down to person-level stats.

So there’s that, but there’s also a whole new slew of companies looking to make “person based” measurement happen, yet another flank Nielsen will need to protect.

What You Need To Do About It

If you’re a network, yes it sucks that your linear business, which was both incredibly profitable and incredibly simple to activate, is on the downswing and is not going to come back. But you all have your own streaming services now, and you need to educate the market as to why advertising on streaming is just as good if not better, while at the same time you need to push all the myriad ad tech vendors to start working together so that advertisers can start buying at scale.

If you’re Nielsen, this is a tough spot, but a little compromise will probably go a long way to maintaining good will. It’s not like anyone believes that linear ratings actually went up or that the networks will stop using Nielsen ratings. So consider this a blip.

If you’re an advertiser and you’re skeptical of streaming, don’t be. It’s going to be tricky to navigate at first, but worth it in the end for the amount of data you’ll get back.

2. Discovery+ Now Available Via Amazon Channel Store

The Amazon Channel Store has proven to be every bit as adept at selling as its parent website. Many streaming services see the bulk of their subscriptions coming from Amazon. 

That’s because for consumers, Amazon is easy. No new account to set up. No new password to memorize. So consumers like it.

Discovery’s deal with Amazon will make it easier for them to grow the audience for Discovery+, useful at a time when there’s much competition for streaming eyeballs, especially from rivals with more buzzed about shows.

Why It Matters

TPTB at Discovery are no doubt aware that the sort of audience they attract, particularly for their home and cooking shows, is likely to be somewhat intimidated by the prospect of using a streaming app. Allowing them to subscribe through Amazon, which many of them likely already have for the free two-day shipping, is going to make it a lot easier to sign up.

Yes, Discovery is allowing Amazon to grab all that data but there’s likely value in being on good terms with Amazon. Because if anyone is ripe ground for interactive or t-commerce based programming, it’s Discovery. Think of how easy it would be to launch a button that allowed you to buy all the ingredients for a recipe or all the doodads for a home makeover project directly from Amazon. 

Discovery is already experimenting with this with Food Network Kitchen and so it’s not a leap to think they’ll roll it out further.

They’re also taking a gamble on the bet that the number of subscribers they’ll pick up by partnering with Amazon is going to be more valuable than whatever data they give up and will likely result in a lower churn rate as well.

It’s a smart bet and one that, especially for their audience, is likely to pay off. 

What You Need To Do About It

If you’re one of the other Flixes, reconsider what you get out of trying to force your viewers to only use your app. Yes, you get all their data, but don’t discount that many people may not bother to sign up because they find the whole process way too confusing.

If you’re Amazon, we’d love to see you do something at scale with DIscovery and t-commerce. Their programming is well suited to it–in many ways the shows are 30-minute infomercials and it’s time someone took advantage of the interactivity afforded by digital delivery.

If you’re Discovery, well played. Your product is unique among the Flixes that it’s never going to be an “either/or” decision versus an app with similar programming and if Amazon comes through and delivers a big box of new subscribers, you’ll be that much farther ahead of the pack.