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Comedy Central, responding to the increasing use of optimizers for media buying, is calling a summit this month with competing cable networks to gather more data on TV viewing.

"Based on a study we've done on optimization, we've come to the conclusion that what the industry is lacking is standardized research on the value of the viewer and the viewing experience," said Debbie Reichig, VP-sales research and development for Comedy Central, who hired Myers Consulting Group to arrange the meeting.

"There will likely be more than one project that comes out of this, and we'll go to various companies to conduct the research needed," she said.

After talking with cable networks, Ms. Reichig hopes to meet with media shop research executives; resulting projects might be funded by both cable networks and agencies.


Some areas that need more research include commercialization, buying styles, attentiveness and co-viewing, Ms. Reichig said.

"Co-viewing is looking at the mix of people in a room watching TV," she said. "And if you can look at co-viewing, you can look at viewing alone. Attention levels are higher when you are watching alone. That's the kind of thing that needs more study."

Ms. Reichig said she decided more research was needed due to the increasing use of optimizers, computer programs used to make buying more efficient. She said optimizers are designed "to find the highest possible reach among a target audience for the lowest possible cost." But, she added, a number of variables about viewers and viewing habits must also be considered.


In general, optimizers push more money to cable, because costs for time on cable are lower.

"They're going in the right direction on this," said Erwin Ephron, partner at media consultant Ephron Papazian Ephron. "Before optimizers, dayparts helped you value TV watching. You paid more for prime time than daytime because it was assumed viewers paid more attention during prime time. But optimizers don't play the daypart game, so you need some other measures to value the viewing experience."

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