Deeper Dive—Explaining the recent influx of cable channels to Comscore’s video ad ratings trial

Comscore CEO Bryan Wiener. (Comscore)

Comscore Campaign Ratings (CCR), the company’s new cross-platform video advertising measurement product, welcomed three new companies to its beta trial this week.

A+E Networks, AMC Networks and Discovery Inc.—three of the biggest cable programmers in the world—suddenly jumped in nearly two months after the beta began in September. Comscore already had ABC, CBS, CNN, Disney, Fox, Freeform, GroupM, NBCUniversal, The CW Network, Turner and Viacom on board, but this seemed like a significant influx.

Comscore CEO Bryan Wiener said the recent additions are just indicative of the process of adding network by network and acclimating companies to a new way of doing things.

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“This is a currency product, meaning that when it’s actually out of beta these networks will be selling inventory with guarantees against Comscore numbers. So, they have to get comfortable with it,” Wiener said.

For Comscore, the first step is to implement CCR on all of a network’s platforms. The company already has linear TV ratings for the networks but it has to include all the different digital properties. After that, the company has to run beta campaigns for the networks to let them see the numbers can get comfortable with them. After that, they can launch.

Wiener said almost every ad agency has expressed interest in joining, but Comscore needs to get all the networks up and running before it can officially start offering CCR.

“I think you should expect to see a steady flow of announcements over the next six months,” Wiener said.

Comscore’s increased momentum is something Wiener welcomes after several years, during which he said the company was “a little bit stuck in the mud and not innovating like we needed to.” Wiener took over as CEO in May after former CEO Gian Fulgoni retired in November 2017.

Fulgoni was only in the role for a short time, taking over from former CEO Serge Matta, who resigned from Comscore’s board in December 2016. Matta, along with several executives including co-founder and former CEO Magid Abraham, left the company amid an internal investigation into financial irregularities.

Earlier this year, Comscore revealed that it lost $281 million in 2017.

But now Comscore seems to be righting the ship and the number of networks signing on for CCR is a measure of that.

CCR measures the reach, frequency and gross ratings points (CRP) across linear, OTT, mobile and desktop. It’s not unlike what competitors like Nielsen are doing with similar products but Wiener said the differentiator is providing unduplicated reach.

Without unduplicated reach, buyers can have a difficult time determining how many different people they’re reaching and how frequently they’re reaching them. Wiener said the difficulties with providing unduplicated reach arise from traditional panel-based methodologies trying to handle all the fragmentation across different content types and different screens. He also that that to do cross-platform deduplication, a measurement platform needs to have a large enough sample of people who are watching television who can also be identified as viewers on digital and OTT.

Wiener said that Comscore can do unduplicated reach by virtue of its wide digital footprint along with the data it collected from set-top boxes from more than 60 million TVs in more than 30 million homes.

The whole reason for all this unduplicated data is to help move the marketplace away from TV ratings toward ad impressions and addressable. Wiener said the idea is to allow advertisers to target not just by gender and age but drill down further. For example, targeting men in the market for a luxury car and then being able to say how many of those men were reached and how frequently they were reached across different screens.

“That’s what CCR is trying to solve for. And the reason why networks are so excited about this is as we roll this out, it’s solving a pain point by allowing them to monetize incremental reach,” Wiener said.