ViacomCBS Taps VideoAmp As Alternative Currency Provider

VideoAmp is getting its shot to take on Nielsen.

ViacomCBS tapped the measurement company to guarantee media buys. VideoAmp will measure TV campaigns based on traditional age and gender demographics for linear TV. It will also guarantee advanced audiences.

The move marks yet another shift away from the industry’s reliance on Nielsen as the dominant currency after the Media Rating Council stripped the TV ratings giant of its National and Local TV accreditation.

ViacomCBS said it is not replacing Nielsen.

“We see a future where Nielsen is one of several instead of the only one,” said ViacomCBS Chief Operating Officer John Halley. ViacomCBS supports efforts by NBCU and the Video Advertising Bureau to advance alternative currencies. ViacomCBS is also working with Comscore as an alternative to Nielsen as TV currency.

"This is an industry initiative – we're going to move collectively together – both the buy side and the sell side – to define that future, and ultimately it’s going to involve multiple currency options based on the advertiser’s preference,” Halley said.

ViacomCBS’s announcement to partner with VideoAmp follows NBCUniversal’s call last month for “measurement independence” from the TV ratings giant. NBCU is reviewing more than 80 responses from measurement companies to an RFP it issued last month – including VideoAmp – to advance measurement alternatives that can provide a unified look at viewership across streaming, mobile, desktop and linear.

Agencies are willing to test, too. Five of the six major holding companies are testing VideoAmp as part of an effort to create an alternative currency for the industry, according to Campaign.

But programmer adoption is a critical, new step: “ViacomCBS is one of the first of the publishers coming out that we've been working with to say that we are now commercially ready to do guarantees with them based on our data set,” said VideoAmp Co-Founder and CEO Ross McCray. In the past, its tech has mainly been used by agencies and networks for attribution, analytics and planning – not to guarantee media buys.

On the linear side, VideoAmp licenses a variety of set-top box, smart TV and ACR data. In digital and streaming, VideoAmp has direct integrations with publishers to obtain first- and third-party data from ad servers and clean rooms. It also stitches those data sources together for cross-screen measurement.

VideoAmp claims this data can match against audiences more easily than Nielsen’s panel-based method, especially for use cases like deduplicated reach and frequency across linear, streaming and digital.

This TV viewership data will guarantee linear media transactions against age and gender demographics, such as 18- to 49-year-olds. Additionally, VideoAmp data will guarantee deals against customized audience segments beyond age and gender through Vantage, ViacomCBS’s advanced advertising platform.

When advertisers bring their own first-party data, VideoAmp overlays it on its linear and digital data sets. Or it can bring in outside third-party data sets to enable targeting against movie enthusiasts or truck intenders.

ViacomCBS’s linear and Vantage buys had relied mainly on Nielsen and Comscore.

“Now, we’re going to use VideoAmp’s definition [of advanced audiences],” said Halley. “We can align the planning KPIs – the planning definition of what that audience looks like – with the guaranteed definition of what that audience looks like. It's a really interesting opportunity for us to create a lot of efficiency on both sides.”

ViacomCBS had already worked with VideoAmp through OpenAP, a consortium of TV networks built to allow advertisers to buy standardized audiences across their inventory.

OpenAP released its proprietary OpenID identifier in April to unite digital and linear audiences across programmers. VideoAmp is integrated with the OpenID, and ViacomCBS is among the networks plugged into the tool.

“The idea here is that we're going to fuse everything to a set of open IDs, which will be able to give us cross-platform reach and frequency for any audience definition and measurement,” Halley said.

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