Major programmers, OpenAP, VAB team on committee for video measurement, alternate currencies

Major programmers including Fox, NBCUniversal, Paramount, TelevisaUnivision and Warner Bros. Discovery, are teaming up with OpenAP and the Video Advertising Bureau (VAB) to fuel certification of audience measurement tools with the aim of enabling multiple alternative currencies in time for the 2024 Upfront.

The companies on Monday announced the formation of a Joint Industry Committee (JIC), “with the primary focus of creating a measurement certification process to establish the suitability of emerging cross-platform measurement solutions in advance of the 2024 upfront.”

As noted by OpenAP, JICs are common in international markets, but this is the first time the U.S. industry is collaborating with a focus specifically on new currencies. In addition to creating a certification process that validates the suitability of cross-platform measurement tools, the other main aim is to create a new unified streaming viewership dataset through OpenAP.  The JIC will fund key data initiatives to speed up innovation in measurement, and ultimately control the collective programmer streaming data and how it will be provided to measurement companies that meet the certification requirements. 

The formation comes at a time when measurement for TV audiences and advertising is undergoing changes. Programmers and advertisers are turning to alternative currencies as they seek to capture and utilize transparent unified, accurate and advanced data to transact on in the face of an increasingly fragmented viewing landscape alongside continued shifts to streaming. It’s also against the backdrop of scrutiny over accuracy of Nielsen’s traditional ratings and measurement that has been relied on for decades, and which had its accreditation suspended by the Media Rating Council in 2021 related to undercounting. Nielsen continues to work toward reaccreditation and its anticipated Nielsen One cross-platform measurement tool is expected to commercially launch January 11.

As for the new JIC, the group said it has already begun to make progress across members to create measurement certification standards, which it plans to formalize and officially announce on March 1.

The group expects to open membership to other qualified video programmers in the coming months and get input and participation from advertising and qualified trade bodies to further its goal of a multi-currency future within the collaborative effort.

At the onset the JIC outlined four key data initiatives to propel new forms of measurement. The top priority is to establish and maintain a certification process, in partnership with the VAB. It will be housed inside the JIC for third-party measurement vendors providing cross-platform video currency services that will be operational by the 2024 broadcast year. Second, the committee will create a programmer data set to enable third-party measurement vendors by harmonizing streaming viewership data brought together by OpenAP infrastructure.

The third initiative for the committee is to “engage a third-party audit firm to verify the accuracy of streaming viewership datasets in order to maintain measurement independence and neutrality.” Finally, the group will collaborate with the VAB and ANA to speed up progress made on measurement calibration by both groups, alongside other key industry trade bodies such as 4A’s, IAB, ARF and others.

In a joint statement the CEOs of NBCU, Paramount, TelevisaUnivision, and Warner Bros. Discovery highlighted the need for a collaborative effort.

"The sustainability of the premium video advertising model depends on an ecosystem for measurement that is transparent, independent, inclusive, and accurately reflects the way all people consume premium video content today – across multiple screens, connections, and devices,” the CEOs said in a joint statement. “By coming together to establish this JIC, we can collaborate and accelerate the efforts to implement a new multi-currency future that fosters more competition, inclusivity and innovation and will ultimately better serve advertisers, agencies and consumers."

OpenAP already has the weight of major media companies behind it, having formed with backing by Fox, NBCU, Paramount and WBD. In a column on Fierce Video in September, TVREV co-founder and analyst Alan Wolk noted that those programmers collectively control and sell a lot of inventory, and when working together on efforts (such as within OpenAP) are in a position to advance cross-platform measurement and buying.

And major media companies have already been pursuing tests and partnerships for new currencies, with a crop of emerging data players such as, Innovid, Samba TV, VideoAmp, as well as Comscore carving out or strengthening spots in the ecosystem.

In a statement in response to the JIC, Samba TV co-founder and CEO Ashwin Navin called the formation “a critical step towards a multi-currency world” where the industry can adopt data and technology needed to create advanced and transparent measurement “versus the legacy black box tools we have been confined to for decades.”

He also said it will help consumers as better measurement provides insights to guide content investments.

“A program that attracts a highly-diverse or hard to reach audience for example, but ultimately captures a smaller overall share of attention of a mainstream program, could be cancelled under the existing legacy model,” Navin continued. “By embracing new and innovative methods that go well beyond the simple age and gender metrics that have guided the industry for decades, and empower advertisers and programmers to truly understand who their audiences are and their real value, we will enable creators to continue to think outside the box in the development of incredibly diverse and entertaining content.”

The push towards new and alternative currencies has already been underway. At the start of 2023 VideoAmp announced a deal to provide Warner Bros. Discovery a full suite of measurement data and capabilities across the company’s linear, streaming and digital portfolio, which it said signaled a move toward the scaled use of multiple alternative currencies ahead of this year’s upfront. That follows an earlier deal with TelevisiaUnivision, which is using the vendor’s data to bolster its Hispanic household dataset.

“Traditional media measurement has not kept pace with how consumers are engaging with streaming and linear content. As a result, these audiences have been undercounted and current measures no longer accurately reflect their true advertising value,” said Andrea Zapata, EVP and head of Ad Sales Research, Measurement and Insights at Warner Bros. Discovery, in a statement.

NBCU is one of the companies using data, following tests during the Super Bowl and Olympics, including as currency for national ad buys at the 2022 upfront. iSpot in 2022 struck a deal with Conviva to incorporate network streaming app programming data into its product, and separately invested in startup TVision to advance its person-level panel. Fox, meanwhile, in October tapped Innovid under a multi-year deal to leverage its cross-platform measurement tool, which incorporates household-level data from smart TVs, ACR and connected TV ad impressions, for viewership data across linear and streaming as part of a converged TV strategy.

Programmers and advertisers are working to standardize new currencies to measure and reach audiences wherever they’re viewing, with a need for data across both linear and streaming platforms. Although cord-cutting continues, Parks Associates data shows that 45% of U.S. households still subscribe to traditional pay TV services, meaning nearly half of households continue to value the form of content delivery, while 83% subscribe to at least one streaming video service.  

A September survey from Innovid of brand and agency stakeholders showed a whopping 92% felt a unified view of reach and performance across converged TV (meaning linear, CTV and digital video) is important. And 80% said they increased the share of converted TV ad spend within their overall media mix in 2022.  However, respondents cited challenges to getting a unified view, with fragmentation of audience as the most-cited pain point, along with creative personalization (37%) and inconsistent measurement (32%).

Speaking last year at a panel session during New York Advertising Week, Steve Silvestri, SVP of advanced advertising at WBD, emphasized the importance of taking a complementary approach to selling inventory across linear and streaming, with unified audience measurement as a key enabler.

“At some point we want to blur the lines between reaching a linear audience in broadcast or if we’re reaching them in a streaming environment,” Silvestri said in October. “We’re creating endpoints of addressability, but at the same we’re trying to deliver to where our audiences are consuming in this new age of digitally led content distribution.”