ComScore’s CEO On What The Rentrak Merger Means

SergeThe merger of comScore and Rentrak, announced Tuesday, creates a powerful new player providing unified digital and offline measurement.

The deal poses a real challenge to Nielsen, which nevertheless is not about to be overthrown as the reining champ of marketing and media measurement.

Pending regulatory approval, comScore will begin to combine its digital audience measurement and cross-platform metrics with Rentrak’s lens into video-on-demand data from 120 million TVs and national box office figures by winter.

“We had been partners with Rentrak for many, many years and we saw that the industry and market is at an inflection point,” Serge Matta, comScore’s CEO, told AdExchanger. “We thought it was a good time to create new products because the market has been screaming for new forms of measurement.”

Similarly, Rentrak President Bill Livek said the deal should unlock “huge revenue synergies between the two companies, which made sense for our customers and shareholders.”

For example, he said Rentrak’s integration with WPP Group’s media insights arm, Kantar, has proven fruitful for advertisers. He cited fast-food brands like Taco Bell who use a combination of anonymized purchase data from Kantar’s Shopcom unit and Rentrak viewership data to determine the impact of TV advertising on sales lift. 

These offerings can be combined with comScore’s measurement offerings to provide more complete tracking of audience exposure across channels.

“The proof is in the pudding,” Livek said.

Dave Morgan, CEO of Simulmedia, noted that although both parties maintained strong positions in certain aspects of the measurement ecosystem, neither could challenge Nielsen going it alone. And even together, he said Nielsen has an edge.

“Together, they still trail Nielsen a lot, but they have a chance to push new products into the market with more scale,” he said.

The WPP Connection

WPP Group has a stake in both companies, which may have provided the impetus for the deal.

“Certainly, a big beneficiary is WPP, who have been vocal critics of Nielsen and are big shareholders in both companies, and probably instigated the merger,” Morgan said.

Elgin Thompson, managing director of Digital Capital Advisors, agreed: “It’s their dollars that fund the entire ecosystem and the transaction is a win for agencies and their clients.”

Matta did not waver when asked if non-WPP agencies were concerned about a WPP-backed joint measurement service. He reiterated WPP’s sole role as an investor in the company without maintaining a board seat or observer position.

“In comScore’s case, since we announced the original WPP investment, our business with other large agencies has actually increased year over year,” he said. “We absolutely both believe in the importance of independence and providing end-to-end measurement, which is the foundation of both our companies. If we favored any one agency, that wouldn’t help us grow.”

John Nitti, chief investment officer for Publicis agency ZenithOptimedia, seemed unfazed by the merger and said he’s “always happy to welcome evolved measurement tools and methods.”


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