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Inside Allen Media Group’s Deal with VideoAmp, a Nielsen Competitor

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The quest for a new way to measure TV audiences has taken years of tests, dozens of efforts to sample upstart technologies and hours of debates among big media companies, Madison Avenue buying firms and blue-chip advertisers. At present, no one seems to have devised a perfect solution. 

So Byron Allen decided to try. 

In June, the media entrepreneur’s Allen Media Group unveiled a 10-year deal with VideoAmp, one of a handful of new vendors striving to replace Nielsen as the entertainment sector’s go-to choice for audience measurement, as the backer of the audience data it would use to strike deals with advertisers.  

Nielsen and the TV networks have been increasingly at loggerheads in the last few years. The measurement giant is striving to build a new system that will consider views via streaming and digital means while the TV sector — one of its biggest clients — charges that the company is moving far too slowly. Linear ratings are in noticeable decline and the broader industry has yet to hit upon a single agreed-upon measure for tabulating broadband viewership. 

“A lot of decisions are being made that should not be made based on the measurement not being as strong as VideoAmp, and I think it’s important that we get the scorecard right,” Allen said during a recent interview. “We are all working hard, but we’re not getting credit for what we put up on the board. Now the technology is in place to provide greater transparency, greater accuracy and we as an industry have to adapt.” 

Other media companies are also striking measurement deals with VideoAmp, as well as others including iSpot and ComScore. Dentsu Intl. said in October, for example, that it plans to utilize technology from VideoAmp to guarantee audience buys across the media portfolios of seven different media companies, including Paramount Global, Fox Corp., Warner Bros. Discovery, A+E Networks, Hallmark Media and NBCUniversal. Paramount, Warner and Hallmark are among the companies using VideoAmp to provide a sort of alternative measurement system to back actual transactions with advertisers. 

None of them, however, have jettisoned Nielsen to the extent Allen Media Group has. The company still uses Nielsen to guide deals for its syndicated and local programming, but when it comes to national cable inventory, VideoAmp backs the advertiser transactions. Aside from its flagship property, the Weather Channel, Allen Media Group owns 36 TV stations affiliated with the nation’s big broadcast networks and 12 HD networks. It also operates Local Now, an app that provides localized news, weather, sports, traffic and entertainment in more than 225 markets
in the U.S. 

There may be obstacles ahead. None of the new measurement technologies has been backed by the Media Rating Council, the industry body that validates audience tabulation methods. That could pose a sticking point for media companies eager to move away from Nielsen, which regained certification for its national ratings service in April after a period of going without it due to a probe of its service during the coronavirus pandemic. Nielsen further inflamed passions earlier this year when it had to recalculate its measurement of the audience for Fox’s broadcast of Super Bowl LVII — which, it turned out, set a new viewership record. 

Allen believes others will follow his maneuver, but also notes he enjoys a greater degree of flexibility than some of his bigger rivals. “I own my company 100%. There is no ‘analysis paralysis.’ It’s not a coincidence I was able to make that decision and move first,” he says.

He expects to see more TV companies doing something similar by the fall of 2024. 

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