Rentrak: ‘It’s Hard To Be The Referee And Quarterback At The Same Time’

RentrakMORentrak defended itself late last week against rival measurement firm Nielsen, whose global president Steve Hasker claimed Rentrak “never lets the facts get in the way of a good press release.”

Hasker, in a Friday media briefing regarding errors Nielsen had discovered in its national networks ratings going back to March 2, opened fire on Rentrak: “Rentrak is not accredited and has never been transparent about their methodologies. We believe they measure only about 40% of households in America, so this is essentially a traditional set-top box data deal with a lot of hyperbole thrown in.”

Hasker was referring to Rentrak’s acquisition Thursday of Kantar Media’s US TV business.

Rentrak vice chairman and CEO Bill Livek confirmed to AdExchanger that it redefined the terms of its national and local television measurement services in June and “has been involved in a very long and complicated accreditation process with the MRC (for TV measurement).” Although Rentrak’s acknowledgement supports some of Hasker’s claim, the company says it was already MRC-accredited for census-based video-on-demand (VOD) and box office ratings.

He declined to take retaliatory shots at Nielsen: “I don’t throw stones at other homes and I don’t think it’s proper to do so. … We’re a disruptive company and we’re really proud of the change we’re bringing.”

Rentrak’s Reach

While Nielsen has long been television’s de facto measurement solutions provider, Rentrak is making waves in the mobile and multichannel video programming distributor (MVPD) space – a category that includes pay TV, satellite and cable television operators.

The company claims it measures more than 13 million TV households and close to 30 million TVs through its total television service.

An impending partnership between Cox Communications and DirecTV, projected to finalize in December, will double Rentrak’s household reach to 26 million with viewing data on some 60 million TV sets. By contrast, Nielsen encompasses about 20,000 households in its sample of TV viewer data.

“Our goal is to be the objective third party to advertisers and agencies that proves a result occurred,” claimed Chris Wilson, Rentrak’s president of national television. “That’s why you don’t see media companies…being terribly successful with [attribution reporting]. It’s hard to be the referee and quarterback at the same time.”

Rentrak claims it has “stable” and “advanced” third-party audience data sets, which it applies to national and local audience demographic information in a privacy-compliant manner. The company has integrations to auto registration files through IHS Automotive; voter files through political ad campaign and tech services firm Targeted Victory; product-level data through Epsilon and IRI (formerly SymphonyIRI Group), as well as real-time national box office ticket sales (Rentrak’s Box Office Essentials is the census-based currency for the film industry).

Nielsen, by comparison, performs third-party matches through a cozy relationship with Facebook and recently expanded its partnership with Specific Media. (Ed: Look for a deep dive on Nielsen’s measurement offerings in the days to come).

Rentrak’s strategic deal with Kantar Media will also allow WPP media investment arm GroupM to use Rentrak’s video on demand measurement (a census-based metric) and its television viewing database.

“We merge many advanced demographic databases, including the cars consumers drive collated against the precise TV shows consumers watch, the CPG products and products they buy at retail,” Livek said. “We …will work with GroupM through all of our platforms of information [and] also with WPP will develop a number of products with them [based on their] ad expenditure [data] and certain digital assets they have.”

Rentrak also has a contract with the agency Zenith Media, part of WPP’s rival agency holding company Publicis Groupe.

Independent Measurer

Rentrak’s Wilson said that in addition to ad exposure, clients are asking for, “did that exposure convert into the goal or result I wanted?” as is par for the course in the direct-response world.

“We have 400 local stations and almost 100 broadcasting cable networks on the national front [that use our service] and the fastest-growing area is the advertiser and media analytics companies themselves using our service for marketing media mix modeling – to do this consumer touch point management across media,” Wilson said.

While Nielsen scores points in mobile, (the TV ratings company in April introduced mobile Nielsen Online Campaign Ratings (OCR), Rentrak, too, is exploring cross-platform conversions. Though the company, per se, does not have a mobile measurement standard, as Nielsen does, it is partnering to do so.

Referencing a recent campaign, Rentrak, partnering with agency Media Storm and location data and mobile ad startup PlaceIQ, jointly developed a tool called PIQ PrimeTime Measurement, Wilson said.

Media Storm used Rentrak to identify heavy Major League Baseball (MLB) game-viewing households across a smattering of networks like ESPN, TBS, FOX Sports 1, FOX and MLB Network. By combining set-top box data with PlaceIQ’s mobile insights, the client was able to deliver targeted mobile advertisements to the heaviest of viewers between April and May of this year. Collectively, they were able to drive close to a 25% increase in MLB tune-in for a major sports network client.

“We know that television drives tune-in, but the closest that we can get… in digital is ‘intent to tune in,’” commented Charlie Fiordalis, managing director of digital, Media Storm. “Intent is good, but it isn’t conversion. I intended to go to the gym this morning, but, hey! It didn’t quite happen.”

Fiordalis called tactics such as this Rentrak Set-Top Box conversion test with PlaceIQ “encouraging,” since it added digital granularity and “accountability” to a historically mass-reaching medium.

“Rentrak’s acquisition of Kantar consolidates and simplifies the set-top box ratings market and gives them more clout to compete with Nielsen,” he said, calling competition in the measurement arena a “good thing. What I’m most excited about… is scaled conversion analysis to see how digital touch points affect conversion to tune-in.”

Allison Schiff contributed.


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