Horizon Media taps Comscore data for alternate currency test

Horizon Media, one of the world's biggest privately-held media services agency, says it has tapped Comscore to provide local television viewership data for buying and planning.

The move comes after Horizon Media announced in April that it would look to incorporate different measurement sources and work with media companies like Paramount Global, Comcast's NBCUniversal and the Allen Media Group on solutions to help move commercial television and video companies away from a single source of measurement.

Part of that plan included setting aside 15%of its advertisement deals that would be struck using alternate measurement data, or local media currency, that would complement data and tools offered by Nielsen.

On Thursday, Horizon Media said Comscore data would be tested on its "rigor, stability and viability" through an initial data analysis and discovery phase. A second phase of testing will be conducted in a local market that will "enable Horizon to test the technical and commercial viability of further use of Comscore local products."

"Horizon is looking to evaluate Comscore on various elements of the ‘currency’ process," Eric Blankfein, the executive vice president of Horizon Media's Channel Observance, Research & Development (CORD) unit, said in a statement. "This will range from the efficacy of the planning data and tools to the stability and volatility of the data over time, as well as its usability within the buying process with Strata/Freewheel."

Blankfein said Horizon Media will also assess "the ability to seamlessly onboard first- and third-party targeting," adding that the company was "encouraged by Comscore's position on all these elements — enough so to give them the balance of 2022 to test as an alternative local video currency."

The partnership comes as some inside the local television industry call for an alternate to traditional ratings to set ad rates. Some charge that data obtained and distributed by Nielsen, the firm that has traditionally measured viewership through ratings, isn't precise enough for local television to compete against data obtained from companies that measure social media, streaming services and other digital platforms.

That data tends to be more granular, and it's the kind of data Comscore is able to obtain from subscribers of pay television services like Dish Network, DirecTV, Comcast, Cox Cable and Charter's Spectrum services. Comscore also collects data from Samba that is natively installed on some Sony, TCL, LG and Panasonic smart television sets as well as Inscape, which is installed on Vizio SmartCast-enabled TVs.

Carol Hinnant, Comscore's chief revenue officer, said the company "worked through a lengthy [request for proposal] process with Horizon to substantiate that Comscore is the optimal provider for local currency." Hinnant said local media brands need the kind of granular data that Comscore offers to help determine how it should set its ad rates.

"As brands continue to invest in local media, due to its consumer relevancy and proximity to point of purchase, the need for better reliable measurement has grown with it," Hinnant said in a statement. "Comscore has been the only true local-market currency against the incumbent for more than ten years, and we are proud to count Horizon among those looking for a more reliable and innovative alternative. We look forward to continuing through the testing phase and working with Horizon as we continue to advance innovation in local TV measurement."