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TelevisaUnivision’s Donna Speciale sees TV’s measurement shift shoring up underrepresentation issue

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The TV advertising industry is in the midst of a measurement overhaul, and Donna Speciale sees signs that the measurement landscape will more accurately account for diverse audiences.

“With the current dataset, which is panel[-based], there has been underrepresentation for minority audiences, and everyone has known it. It was hard to quantify, but everybody realized it,” Speciale, TelevisaUnivision’s president of U.S. sales and marketing, said on the latest Digiday Podcast episode.

But as TV’s measurement system shifts from panel-based measurement to measurements based on data — such as viewership tracked against logged-in audiences and smart TV’s automatic content recognition technology — and TV network owners like TelevisaUnivision test the latter measurement systems, Speciale said she has been able to quantify how much Hispanic audiences have been historically undercounted. 

“We’ve had like six to seven months of data that we’ve been analyzing, and it’s astonishing how much the Hispanic audience was underrepresented,” said Speciale. She added, “Now we know that there’s numbers that are basically showing that [panel-based measurement] was really off. And I’m not talking 2%. I’m talking 20-30-35%, depending on how you look at it. That’s not a statistical error.”

In light of that undercounting, Speciale said she feels an urgency to adopt measurement systems that offer an alternative to the traditional panel-based methodology. And so it has become a focal point in her and her team’s conversations with advertisers and agencies heading into this year’s annual upfront negotiations.

“Just like every negotiation, we’re going one by one, holding company by holding company, talking to each of their investment leads and their research leads and talking about leaning into the big data set,” she said.

Here are a few highlights from the conversation, which have been edited for length and clarity.

Checking measurement providers’ math

We did some work with [data validation firm] Truthset where they found that clients who actually were using third-party data sets that 70% of the impressions were being missed because four out of 10 Hispanics were not being targeted correctly. There was a huge misrepresentation of the Hispanic audience.

Addressing the underrepresentation issue

When we did the analysis with Truthset, we brought [the representation issue] to the attention of VideoAmp and iSpot. VideoAmp really has leaned in and realized that they weren’t using as big of a representation of the Hispanic audience. So they have been really leaning in and utilizing our expertise to get the sets to where they need to be to get the data to be accurately represented.

Timing the measurement overhaul

I’m a little frustrated with everybody not leaning into the big data for Nielsen right now. [The upfront is a futures market], and the future is ’24. So regardless if the accreditation [by the Media Rating Council of Nielsen’s new data-based measurement system] happens in September or January, it’s going to be ’24. I don’t want to wait until September-October of ’24 to do this.

The impact of the writers’ strike

With the merger of Televisa and Univision, [the company has] huge production facilities [in] Mexico with Televisa. So we do a lot of our own original programming. So you’re not going to see us be as affected as the other media companies.

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