Advertising Week 2014

The Big Problem With Cross-Platform Measurement: No One Wants To Pay

Advertising Week Panel Or Telethon? Panelists Urge Audience to Support Measurement Research

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The entire industry is clamoring for advancements in cross-platform measurement, yet no one is willing to pay for it.

That was the message during the Advertising Week panel -- "Are We There Yet? The Journey from TV to Total Video" -- that was eventually jokingly called a "telethon," where researchers across media buying and selling urged the audience to support cross-platform research.

"We know how to do it, but it is really hard and expensive," said Alan Wurtzel, president, research and development, NBC Universal. Mr. Wurtzel said the entire industry talks about the need for cross-platform measurement, but when it comes time to write a check no one is willing to support the cause.

"Unless we support it in a tangible way we will be back next year in the same place," he said.

"The challenge is less about technology and more about the support of the industry," said Artie Bulgrin, senior VP-global research and analytics, ESPN.

There is viewership taking place on devices that's not being represented by Nielsen when accounting for total TV audiences. This fall Nielsen has begun measuring viewing that takes place on smartphones and tablets and making it possible for networks to include that in their total TV audience figures, but Joan Fitzgerald, VP-TV sales and business development, ComScore, said there's still a ways to go to measure unduplicated reach and to align metrics across platforms.

NBC's "The Blacklist," for example, is missing 17% of its viewership, which is watching on other devices, while 37% of "Parks and Recreation" viewers are not being measured, Mr. Wurtzel noted.

It's not just TV networks that are clamoring for advancement in measurement.

Lyle Schwartz, managing partner-director of research and marketplace analysis, GroupM, said while programmers may be able to cobble together different metrics to show viewership on other platforms, there needs to be a standard that advertisers can be confident in utilizing.

Mr. Schwartz said that would increase the supply of ratings points and, if demand stays the same, moderating in pricing -- a plus for advertisers.

But first someone has to pay for the metrics to get there.

UPDATE: After this article was published, a Nielsen spokeswoman said in a statement: "Nielsen has delivered to the market a mobile solution which measures all devices and produces comparable metrics across all platforms. Our technology enables flexibility across business models and we are encouraged by our clients' engagement with our program."