Why ComScore Needs WPP’s Investment To Take On Nielsen

JaneClarkeDigital measurement company comScore needed WPP’s investment in order to rival Nielsen in cross-platform ratings, according to one comScore partner.

Although Nielsen dominates linear TV measurement, its push toward a “Total Audience” rating will improve its mobile Online Campaign Ratings tool, launched last summer. ComScore, in lockstep, rolled out a cross-platform tool in January to measure video across smartphones, tablets and over-the-top devices.

Yet Nielsen is already ubiquitous since it is so widely used by broadcast media owners.

“In order to achieve cross-platform measurement, you need a hybrid of a high-quality calibration panel and census data for each platform, which comScore has with digital, but not in TV or cross-platform yet,” explained Jane Clarke, a former Time-Warner VP, now CEO of the Coalition for Innovative Media Measurement (CIMM).

CIMM is a trade organization consisting of TV content providers, media agencies and advertisers focused on improving marketing attribution, planning, buying and measurement systems.

It’s now working with comScore and a handful of media companies like NBC and ESPN on a cross-platform measurement pilot dubbed Project Blueprint.

Although comScore has access to set-top box and television viewing data, the latter largely comes from Nielsen Audio’s Portable People meter. The new investment from WPP’s Kantar Group, should provide a more direct line to audience viewing data, albeit in non-US markets for now. 

While Kantar owns approximately 80% of TV audience measurement contracts outside of the US, it arguably plays second fiddle to Nielsen in the US. However, Kantar recently offloaded its US-based TV asset in return for WPP’s 16% stake in Rentrak. WPP Kantar, Rentrak and comScore are, therefore, inextricably linked.

“It’s very obvious this investment will help [both of them] take the next step [to create] a fully viable prime-time service,” Clarke said.

Tim Castree, managing director for video ad platform Videology and former chief operating officer for Publicis agency Starcom MediaVest, said he thought the deal reaffirmed WPP’s push “beyond its core agency business into data and infrastructure” and, conversely, comScore’s entry into cross-platform video measurement.

“The ability to measure individual campaign performance across TVs, smartphones, tablets and desktops provide new and powerful insights to marketers,” comScore CEO Serge Matta said at the time of the announcement. “Our alliance with Kantar would…accelerate the pace of our global rollout.”

One uncharted area of measurement for both Nielsen and comScore is streaming and over-the-top video.

Nielsen is developing an online video subscription service measurement, although it doesn’t have unfettered access to providers such as Netflix or Amazon. It does, however, work with Hulu on desktop audience measurement, according to The Wall Street Journal, and hopes to improve its Total Audience scale by the end of the year.

“Media owners don’t want to look at numbers in isolation,” Clarke explained. “They want linear, DVR, OTT and mobile all added up together and an open identifier. The challenge is not only that to identify the content itself, but also the source of the content. And this ties back to the way content and ads are identified in the first place.”


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