Is Court TV guarantee birth of new ROI trend?

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An upfront deal between Publicis Groupe's Starcom USA and Court TV is more the tip of the iceberg than the tipping point in a return-on-investment revolution.

Court TV is guaranteeing not only a certain number of ratings points but also a minimum of engaged viewers-and offered make-goods if the network falls short of either. In exchange, the mega media agency offered greater volume.

"I see it as a possible new trend since it's not just about [cost per thousand rates] or impressions but connecting with consumers," said Andy Donchin, director-national broadcast, Carat. "We're down that road and are looking to find like opportunities." Ultimately, he said, "if a network comes to us and says how well they're reaching our audience, if they believe that, hopefully they'll back it up with more than just an impression guarantee."

Court TV is bringing similar-though not identical-deals to other agencies, said Charlie Collier, senior VP-ad sales for the network. "Not every deal will be the same because agencies have their own proprietary data and different ways of looking at engagement," he said.

Starcom, as well, is talking to other cable networks, syndicators, broadcast networks and online media about engagement guarantees. And when a media seller steps up and offers one, "they should be rewarded for greater risk," said Elizabeth Herbst-Brady, senior VP-director of broadcast investment at the Chicago-based agency. Starcom CEO John Muszynski has publicly predicted these types of deals will be an integral part of the future TV marketplace.

GOING WITH RESEARCH

And while almost every media agency is on a quest for qualitative data, until more networks begin offering additional guarantees in their upfront pitches, buyers will put their budgets where the proprietary research is.

"There are many different metrics we use," said Lyle Schwartz, managing partner of WPP Group's Mediaedge:cia. "They can be factored both into the negotiations and prior to that in the selection of and allocations to media vehicles."

Perhaps the biggest incentive for networks-especially small ones that need to be more creative in order to get to the table-is the lure of slicing a greater share of Starcom's $7.1 billion of media. "We're rewarding partnership behavior," Ms. Herbst-Brady said.

The deal

* Starcom and Court TV agreed on a formula that measures viewer attentiveness, engagement and recall.

* In addition to viewer guarantees based on Nielsen ratings, Court TV also promises a certain number of engaged viewers.

* The network will offer make-goods if it fails to deliver either the promised gross ratings points or number of engaged viewers.

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