Future of TV Briefing: Ad buyers, sellers ‘don’t anticipate a major currency shift’ in this year’s upfront

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This week’s Future of TV Briefing looks at the measurement currency outlook for this year’s TV and streaming ad upfront market.

  • Currency contention
  • OpenAI’s Hollywood talks, Walmart-Vizio worries, Fox’s Netflix ad deal and more

Currency contention

This was supposed to be the year. The one when the TV ad industry finally completes its yearslong measurement currency changeover. But nope. With annual upfront negotiations set to kick off in a couple months, ad buyers and sellers alike say that’s extremely unlikely to happen.

“I don’t anticipate a major currency shift [in this year’s upfront cycle],” said one TV network executive.

“I wouldn’t say we’ve stalled, but it’s definitely more slow-moving,” said one agency executive.

One major reason that the currency transition seems a ways off from any conclusion is that Nielsen postponed its plan to phase out its legacy measurement system this fall, which was going to effectively wipe the TV measurement currency slate clean across the board. 

Another major reason, though, is that ad buyers and sellers are still waiting on more evidence that the major measurement providers’ newer measurements can be counted upon as currencies. 

For example, Nielsen started testing its big data measurement — which adds third-party information, such as return-path data and automatic content recognition data, to its legacy panel-based measurement — as a currency option last year. But while that measurement is being tested by ad buyers and sellers, it’s not yet proven in their minds.

“I don’t think Nielsen big data will scale ultimately [in this year’s upfront cycle] as there are too many unknowns still,” said a second agency executive. They said the unknowns primarily relate to not having enough historical data to be able to confidently negotiate audience guarantees with TV networks based on the big data measurements.

Similarly, VideoAmp recently updated its personification methodology after incorporating data from Comcast through a deal announced in 2022, according to agency and TV network executives interviewed for this article. And while the ad buyers and sellers said that measurement providers often update their methodologies — “I mean, Nielsen does this all the time,” said the first agency executive — the timing of VideoAmp’s update coming a couple months before upfront negotiations get underway is a bit tight for agency and TV network executives’ liking.

“We really need to understand their personification methodology and what type of modeling they’re applying, you know, what is deterministic and what is probabilistic,” said a second TV network executive.

“It just comes down to lack of time to test everything,” said the second agency executive. “VideoAmp is case in point. They keep updating, which is great, but then how do you have a moment in time to use [measurements based on the updated methodology] as a baseline for negotiations?”

“We’re always striving to make co-viewing improvements at VideoAmp, but we have not made any Comcast-specific methodology changes for this 2024-2025 broadcast year,” said a VideoAmp spokesperson in a statement.

It’s not only the measurement providers’ methodologies that are changing so close to the upfront, but so is their standing among buyers and sellers. 

Earlier this month, a third TV network said that “Nielsen big data and VideoAmp, I think, are the only realistic currency alternatives [to Nielsen’s legacy panel-based measurement] as we speak for this upfront.”

Around the same time, a third agency executive summed up the alternative measurement currency competition similarly. “I think VideoAmp will win the advanced audiences game, while Nielsen retains the crown for age/demo,” they said.

And then, just last week, Media Rating Council accredited Comscore’s national and local TV measurement. That’s a major development considering that MRC’s suspension of Nielsen’s national and local TV measurement in 2021 effectively served as the starting gun to this whole currency competition. Nielsen regained MRC accreditation for its national TV measurement last year, but its local TV measurement remains unaccredited.

So, while Nielsen and VideoAmp were heading into this year’s upfront as the primary currency contenders, the field remains fairly open. “Comscore is still in the mix,” said the first agency executive, who also counted iSpot.tv among those in contention.

In fact, all four appear to be very much in contention. In an interview on March 11 — two weeks before the MRC-Comscore accreditation announcement — Sean Cunningham, CEO of VAB, the industry trade organization representing TV networks, said the organization’s estimate for the number of advertising clients “actively trading using as currency — whether it’s VideoAmp or it’s iSpot or it’s Comscore — something other than Nielsen [is] in the 1000s.”

Of course, that doesn’t mean that those advertisers are using the alternative measurements as currencies for traditional age-and-gender-based demographic guarantees, the upfront’s primary transaction model. But it does further evince what has become painfully apparent over the past few years: When it comes to the TV measurement landscape, change is what can best be counted on.

What we’ve heard

“As far as the next upfront cycle, we haven’t seen the same amount of energy as the ’21 [timeframe] around incremental support of that audience, but we have seen a ton of interest, particularly from [agency] holding companies.”

TV network executive on advertiser interest in multicultural inventory

Numbers to know

$11 billion: How much money Apollo Global Management has offered to acquired Paramount Global’s film-and-TV studio.

3.4 million: Number of subscriber sign-ups that this year’s Super Bowl generated for Paramount+.

$61: How much money the average U.S. household pays for streaming subscriptions per month.

53%: Percentage share of digital video ad impressions that connected TV accounted for.

$21.5 billion: How much money advertisers are expected to spend on CTV ads in the U.S. this year.

What we’ve covered

B2B marketers invest more in influencer marketing as channel proves itself:

  • Influencer marketing firms said they’re receiving an increased number of requests for proposals from B2B marketers in the last year.
  • The B2B marketers typically seek out influencers within the brand’s niche.

Read more about influencer marketing here.

Why Amazon is bringing Twitch’s most lucrative parts deeper into the Amazon Ads fold:

  • Amazon has used Twitch’s livestreaming tech as the basis of its Amazon Interactive Video Service.
  • Twitch has run into a host of controversies over the past two years.

Read more about Twitch here.

Disney is rolling out DRAX Direct, a direct integration with the industry’s largest DSPs:

  • Advertisers will be able to use The Trade Desk’s and Google’s demand-side platforms to buy Disney’s streaming ad inventory.
  • Disney hopes to generate 75% of its ad revenue through programmatic by the end of this year.

Read more about Disney here.

What we’re reading

OpenAI heads to Hollywood:

The ChatGPT maker is meeting with film-and-TV studios, talent agencies and others in the entertainment industry to pitch its generative AI tool for video called Sora, according to Bloomberg.

Walmart-Vizio worries ad buyers:

In acquiring Vizio, Walmart will take ownership of Inscape, a leading provider of viewership data through its automatic content recognition technology, and ad execs worry Walmart will stop making that data available to outside companies through licensing deals, according to the wall Street Journal.

NFL tackles ‘Spulu’:

The league’s media head Brian Rolapp has questioned the value of the upcoming Disney-Fox-Warner Bros. Discovery sports streaming service by calling attention to the fact that service will lack a majority of NFL games, according to Next TV.

Fox sells Netflix on business outcome guarantees:

Last year Fox aired a sponsored segment to promote Netflix’s “Rebel Moon,” with the transaction based on the number of likes, shares, comments, retweets, posts and video views it garnered online, according to Variety.

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