For Broadcast, 2024 Will Be The Year Of Multiple Currencies

True cross-platform measurement is also on the industry’s mind, while local linear TV measurement falls further behind.

This will be the year that multiple currencies are finally used to buy and sell linear and digital television advertising, marking a sea change in how that business has been conducted since television’s founding.

Sean Cunningham

“In 2023, the industry accomplished a lot of the hard slog it had to do to get operationalized,” says Sean Cunningham, president, Video Advertising Bureau. “We’re now in a place where, as we are looking at the national upfront and multi-quarter scatter market, we have legitimate levers to pull from a currency perspective.

“What you’re seeing for the first time is that we are going to have a true jump ball in terms of currency providers in 2024,” he says.

Nielsen Media Research, which was founded in 1923, has for the most part been the sole provider of currency on which TV advertising is bought and sold. However, when Nielsen lost its MRC accreditation in September 2021, media companies took the opportunity to seek out new options. Since then, three more currency providers have emerged, with Comscore, iSpot.TV and VideoAmp joining Nielsen.

While many in the industry proselytize currency choice, some argue that there’s really only room for no more than four and even that might be too many.


“Advertisers are not looking for a vast portfolio of alternative currencies,” says Erin Firneno, VP of business intelligence at Advertiser Perceptions. “Having metrics that have historical benchmarks that can be used across all different buys is very important. Advertisers are looking for consistency. Making advertisers move away from that is a tougher problem than I think the industry thought it would be”

One way to assure advertisers of consistency is through accreditation and standardization. Two of the above-mentioned four currency providers are accredited by the Media Rating Council: Nielsen, whose national television audience measurement service was reaccredited last April, and Comscore and VideoAmp both are awaiting decisions from the MRC. And while Nielsen’s national television audience measurement service gained reaccreditation, several of its other products did not.

Angelina Eng

“Right now, there are too many companies that are self-accrediting and grading their own homework,” says Angelina Eng, VP, measurement, addressability and data center, Interactive Advertising Bureau. “They are coming up with criteria that only fits for them and isn’t scalable for the marketplace.”

Meanwhile, the Joint Industry Committee (JIC) was created last March to set standards for currency providers and to “establish and maintain a measurement certification process for third-party measurement vendors conducting cross-platform premium video currency services,” the JIC said when it was announced.

Last September, the JIC granted conditional certification to Comscore, iSpot.TV and VideoAmp with full certification expected to be awarded early this year. Nielsen opted not to participate in this process.

“The news marks an important milestone in bringing transparency to the industry on transactional readiness at scale for new cross-platform solutions and in enabling more competition in a multi-currency marketplace,” the JIC said upon announcing the conditional certifications.

In the meantime, the mainstream TV industry is still mostly relying on Nielsen and live plus three-day commercial ratings (C3) as its trading currency of choice, even though lip service has been paid to moving to an impressions-only system.

Ashwin Navin

“The industry will eventually be planned and traded on impressions,” says Samba TV CEO and Co-Founder Ashwin Navin. “It’s the only way to look at TV, connected TV and digital holistically. We pioneered this in the U.S. and now globally.

“However, since Nielsen has made C3 ratings available indefinitely, it’s unlikely that a full transition will happen anytime soon,” Navin says. “They decided not to force everyone off by a hard deadline, which was their previous strategy.”

As the industry moves towards trading on impressions versus ratings, it’s also actively seeking a robust cross-platform measurement methodology and metric. Many such solutions are in the works or partially available, but that magical metric has not yet been determined.

Christopher Wilson

“As viewers become more dynamic around content, providers need more solutions that allow them to effectively buy and sell ads, acquire content and understand distribution,” says Christopher Wilson, CEO of HyphaMetrics. “This problem is not going to go away or get better. Fragmentation will continue to increase, and personalization of media consumption will continue to expand with generative AI, in that what you do decides what gets put in front of you. That creates real challenges for traditional measurement, and we need innovative thinking to solve those problems.”

While many are optimistic about this space, others are more practical: “I don’t think cross-channel measurement will ever be really solved,” Eng says. “With all of these different channels we have, we don’t have the same levels of data or data sets and platforms are naming things the way that they want to, so you don’t know how to evaluate things on an apples-to- apples basis. In fact, what you have is apples, oranges, watermelons and cucumbers.”

Earlier in January, Samba TV and HyphaMetrics announced a panel-based product aimed at helping to solve the problem of measuring program and campaign performance across multiple linear and digital platforms.

“One of the biggest problems out there today is the ability to combine deterministic true cross-platform data with larger scale data and calibrate it so that you have a whole-home view of what’s going on at scale,” HyphaMetrics’ Wilson says. “Hypha’s tech has the ability to measure the viewer journey within the home. We collect data from TV screens and from devices at the person level. We then take that deterministic data, combine it with Samba’s audience data to get a complete view of what’s going on within the home.”

The plan is to create a panel of some 5,000 homes before the year is out. In each opted-in home, HyphaMetrics will place a meter that connects to all of the devices in the home — TVs, smart phones, tablets, laptops and so forth — via WiFi or Bluetooth, and that captures on-screen video. HyphaMetrics’ technology uses artificial intelligence (AI) and machine-based learning to constantly get better at identifying the media being consumed.

“Our goal is to support the media ecosystem, not to be a currency provider,” Wilson says.

Samba TV’s co-founder and CEO Ashwin Navin noted in an email: “By combining Samba TV’s robust viewership data with HyphaMetrics’ artificial intelligence-fueled panel data, this opens the door for unprecedented access to a unified dataset, offering census-level data with person-level granularity. The cross-validated dataset can be leveraged across the media marketplace to activate interoperability, thereby increasing flexibility and utility of existing data.”

Nielsen also continues to work on its Nielsen One product, which combines big data with panel-based information. Nielsen One has been delayed several times but it’s now in alpha. Due to those delays, industry confidence about when Nielsen One will be ready for literal primetime is low.

“It’s hard to say as we sit here in January with so many blanks that haven’t been filled in and levels of detail that we haven’t had full transparency on,” VAB’s Cunningham says. “If you are thinking about Nielsen One being used as the dominant currency instrument come fourth quarter 2024, there is an enormity of conveyance that has not happened. Nielsen has been communicating consistently but we’ve yet to see anywhere the level of detail and disclosures that we think are necessary to make currency-grade choices with a new option.”

While strides are certainly being made in cross-platform measurement, there’s still plenty of work to be done.

“It’s one step forward, two steps back,” Eng says. “Our industry is still focused on reach and frequency, while trying to understand overlap and duplication. To really do cross channel, you need a combination of deterministic and probabilistic data.”

Along with true cross-platform measurement, another problem that needs to be solved is accurate measurement of local linear television on a demographic level. Right now, local TV demographics are provided by Nielsen using one small panel that is overlaid on other markets. With the amount of fragmentation in local TV viewing, the number of people on which Nielsen is deriving estimates is too small to provide an accurate analysis.

This issue proves to be endlessly frustrating for TV station executives. And while many entities are working to solve cross-platform measurement, a similar solution on the local level is further away. Still, companies like Comscore and VideoAmp are working on the problem.

Patrick Paolini

“There’s a measurement crisis in local television and it needs to get resolved,” says Patrick Paolini, EVP, ad sales, Fox Television Stations. “We need to evolve like the measurement companies have evolved. The industry has to have the conviction to get this done. I don’t say it lightly that we are in a measurement crisis.”

The problem for local television is that local markets cannot rely on national data and thus do not have the scale to reliably establish demographic performance on a market-by-market level. Nielsen currently collects data on local television performance via meters placed in opted-in homes in local markets, but those samples are not large enough to provide accurate information in a space that’s gotten more and more fragmented in recent years.

“We’re currently testing Nielsen OTT data,” Paolini says. “We see ad impression data for the same programs. The data is wildly different between the two and it’s very frustrating. People want to consume our content in the streaming space, and we need to be able to monetize that efficiently and consistently.

“We’ve been having this same conversation for a long time and the industry just keeps kicking the can,” he says. “We have to figure it out and companies like Nielsen need to help us figure it out.”

While local-market TV measurement keeps falling behind, the rest of the industry is looking ahead, past even cross-platform measurement to new technologies such as attention metrics, which includes using eye scans, neurological tracking, biometric data and cognitive analysis, to determine what content is catching and keeping people’s attention.

While it sorts through all of those challenges, the industry also is tasked with looking ahead. AI and machine learning are playing ever bigger roles across the industry, playing roles in planning, buying, optimizing, marketing and so forth.

And new technologies — such as next-gen virtual reality headsets and transparent TVs — are just around the corner. After all, if a person puts on an Apple Vision Pro and heads off to For All Mankind’s Happy Valley for some Martian adventures or travels back in time to watch Lessons in Chemistry’s Brie Larson bake the perfect cherry pie, how will that time and attention be measured?

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