NBCU Develops A Unified Ad Metric To Level The Playing Field Between TV And Digital Impressions

NBCUniversal is about to do something TV companies have talked about for years: transact TV in a similar way as digital – on impressions.

NBCU revealed Thursday that it would begin to measure live, on-demand and time-shifted TV ad buys using a common impression-based metric called CFlight.

CFlight will be part of NBCU’s upfront pitch and will apply to buys at the start of the broadcast year. The metric expands the broadcaster’s Total Audience Delivery (TAD) initiative to NBCU’s larger portfolio.

While TAD applied audience guarantees to cross-platform buys beginning with the Winter Olympics, CFlight creates a common currency for TV and digital and significantly expands NBC’s ability to grant performance guarantees for viewership across different channels.

NBCU’s goal is to create a more unified measurement of cross-platform views and performance as viewership shifts to on-demand and over-the-top (OTT) environments.

The CFlight metric will also only count digital impressions viewed through to completion, said Krishan Bhatia, EVP of business operations and strategy for NBCUniversal’s advertising sales division.

“You [have to] have watched the entire 15- or 30-second spot,” in order for a digital impression to count, Bhatia said. This approach is a “significantly different standard than most digital platform standards out there that count on first frame or three seconds into the view.” 

Although NBCU’s move seems like a deliberate response to Facebook and its string of video measurement mishaps, it also underscores the growing importance of equivalizing views across live TV, OTT and digital.

Advertisers have pushed for years for a commercial metric that comprehensively accounts for long-form viewing across on-demand and time-shifted environments.

But there was always significant disparity between the way digital qualified a video “view” versus the standard way television is measured: on ratings and “average minutes viewed.”

CFlight aims to democratize views across live and on-demand viewing, and digital, IP-based viewing. It will also begin to account for co-viewing behavior through measurement on OTT platforms like Roku and in NBCUniversal programming on Hulu.

Agencies like GroupM have also lobbied for better TV metrics than traditional C3 or C7 ratings, the longtime industry standard.

GroupM, Magna and Omnicom Media Group have signed on to transact on the CFlight metric when purchasing inventory from the NBCU portfolio.

NBCU’s move to advance a common metric and currency is one step closer to qualifying views universally across linear and digital platforms, according to David Cohen, president, North America at Magna.

To develop the cross-platform metric, NBCU collaborated with independent, third-party measurement companies Nielsen, comScore and Moat to create a composite “score” to standardize linear and digital viewership across its properties.

It also has an open invitation to other measurement companies to participate.

“We’re encouraging anyone who can account for viewership or commercial impressions accurately, and that our clients agree on, to be part of the CFlight concept,” Bhatia said. “This is modular. We’re boiling [viewership] down to an impression level across all platforms, and we’re setting a standard for how an impression ought to be measured.”

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