NBCUniversal crowns iSpot.tv a preferred measurement partner amid strategy shakeup

Linda J. Dodson

Dive Brief:

  • NBCUniversal has named iSpot.tv a preferred measurement partner in a multiyear pact that touches across its One Platform portfolio, according to an announcement.
  • The media giant will enact a “massive pilot” of iSpot.tv’s audience verification tools for ad campaigns and program ratings around upcoming broadcasts of the 2022 Olympic Winter Games and Super Bowl LVI. Agency partner Publicis Media is the first media holding company to test the new measurement suite.
  • ISpot.tv emerges as an early winner after NBCUniversal began an extensive review of its measurement relationships last year. The network reinforced that it is not selecting a sole partner to handle all of its measurement duties, nor is it seeking a replacement for Nielsen, which was among the first companies to submit to NBCUniversal’s request for proposal (RFP).

Dive Insight:

NBCUniversal is putting the building blocks in place for a fresh approach to measurement across its streaming and linear TV properties in teaming with iSpot.tv. The two have a history: NBCUniversal was an early adopter of iSpot.tv’s smart TV measurement services in 2014 and tapped the platform four years later to establish outcome-driven measurement in the TV market.

Now, the network’s aim is to diversify metrics in a broader sense that recognizes people are consuming content in a different fashion than they were even a few years ago, which has driven up the demand for real-time, precise insights. In a statement, a Publicis Media executive described this set-up as an “all screen, one video world,” a phrase reflecting fragmented viewing habits amid the rise of streaming.

ISpot.tv’s offerings face a steep test around the Winter Olympics and Super Bowl, two destination viewing events that draw millions of eyeballs and mountains of ad spend from blue-chip marketers. NBCUniversal’s advertising partners will receive iSpot.tv’s real-time airing data for linear, streaming and time-shifted viewing, as well as next-day reports detailing verified ad impressions, reach and frequency, linear and streaming overlap and incrementality. Measurement stats are available at the household and personal level for age and gender demographics, along with customized audience segments.

Select brands working with NBCUniversal will also be able to access impact-oriented measurement, such as granular attention and interruption rates, business-outcome reporting and creative performance assessments encompassing pretesting and brand lift analysis. The outcome of these pilots will form the blueprint for NBCUniversal’s approach to the 2022-23 upfronts season.

“This is not a shift away from one panel-based system to another, but a definitive step toward embracing the metrics brands already use to evaluate media companies,” Kelly Abcarian, executive vice president of measurement and impact at NBCUniversal Advertising and Partnerships, said in a press statement.

The move is supported by the recent introduction of NBCUnified, a solution that streamlines first-party data from across NBCUniversal’s portfolio of TV networks, streamers and theme parks. NBCUnified acts as the “data spine” for the company’s broader measurement initiatives. NBCUniversal is at the same time affirming commitments to measurement standards set by the Association of National Advertisers, Video Advertising Bureau and OpenAP.

Future measurement partners will be unveiled as they complete NBCUniversal’s certification process. NBCUniversal started conducting a wide-ranging RFP in 2021 to break with legacy metrics and narrow in on those that carry a tangible impact for consumers, advertisers and publishers. The elephant in the room in this discussion is Nielsen, until recently the dominant player in the TV measurement category.

Nielsen came under fire last year for systemically undercounting viewership numbers amid the pandemic. It subsequently lost its accreditation from the Media Rating Council, a top media watchdog, in a serious blow to its standing among networks and advertisers, some of whom have long pined for alternatives.

NBCUniversal is adamant that its measurement shakeup is not about replacing Nielsen, and that its stack of partners could indeed eventually include the firm, which quickly submitted to the RFP. The network has not set a hard number of partners it’s seeking as it looks to reinvent measurement. The RFP drew over 100 responses, with other contenders including ComScore, DataPlusMath, Conviva, Truthset and VideoAmp.

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