Nine's cross-measurement a catalyst, but not a game-changer

James McGrath
By James McGrath | 25 May 2015

The media buying circuit has welcomed Nine's cross-measurement piece, but said it wouldn't alter how much investment went into Network Nine programs.

Earlier this month the network launched the Platform Agnostic Ratings for Content (PARC) tool, a unit of measurement intended to harmonise TV, playback, and online audience numbers ahead of a similar metric currently being devised by OzTAM, to be delivered in the second half of this year.

The tool essentially measures linear audiences and online catch-up audiences in the same way, allowing Nine to sell both together. While live and playback is measured by OzTAM using a minute-by-minute aggregate, online video in the form of catch-up is not.

PARC addresses this by averaging audience volumes at every moment of the online stream, rather than just focusing on the stream start, effectively mimicking a TV rating according to Nine. A video stream with an average audience of 20,000-30,000 usually has stream starts in excess of 100,000.

Speaking with AdNews, Nine's group director of research and analytics Steve Weaver said the new metric would give Nine a leg-up in the marketplace as it sold shows such as the next season of The Block.

“I think we're potentially getting in ahead of those guys [Seven and Ten], so it would seem to be [throwing down the gauntlet],” Weaver said.

While buyers have been broadly positive about the development, several said that it would not alter the way it bought from Nine.

“From a straight negotiation viewpoint it needs to [be] an industry currency that can be traded against – we can’t evaluate each network on different criteria,” chief investment officer at IPG Mediabrands Victor Corones told AdNews.

“From a Nine Network perspective it’s a nice way for Nine to package their offering. But in the absence of an industry currency agency teams will continue to unbundle to do their necessary evaluations.”

It was a sentiment backed up by Slingshot Media managing director Simon Rutherford.

“It will be easier for them when it comes to packaging up those deals, but as a buyer we want to be able to compare across the networks,” Rutherford said.

“So I don't think Nine has a particular advantage in the marketplace, but what it does do is really move the conversation forward which is a positive.”

Nine's move comes ahead of a measurement piece due by OzTAM in the second half of this year which would come up with a common metric for online catch-up.

While buyers acknowledged the need for this process to be robust, they say that the pace of change has been frustrating.

“Hopefully this [Nine's move] becomes a catalyst to move to an industry standard. In the absence of such a standard we are using our own proprietary tools to better understand cross platform performance,” Corones said.

OzTAM's measurement of online catch-up inventory would just be one piece of the puzzle, with a broader unifying metric thought to be some years off.

OzTAM in recent months has issued a request for information to several measurement companies looking at the issue, and is still a couple of months away from sitting down with them to hash out the details.

The current push is thought to be informal, but with a contract with Nielsen up for review in 2017, the talks could inform something more robust.

“Whilst there is pent up demand to find a cross platform measurement no one has really cracked the code on it around the world. Globally everyone is working towards a solution,” Corones said,

“For Australia it seems we won’t have a currency until 2018 – a lot can and will change in that time. So the TV networks and OZTAM have to take collective responsibility on speeding things up.”

OzTAM chief executive Doug Peiffer told AdNews that the pace of change was a byproduct of wanting to be robust rather than rush in on a metric which may turn out to be incorrect.

“We're very comfortable with the pace at which we're rolling that solution [catch-up measurement] out, and we don't want to start putting out numbers that haven't been given the full rigorous application,” Peiffer said.

“It does demonstrate that the industry at large are keen to have this sort of data, and that's exactly what we're working on. We really want our numbers to be a common currency across the industry”

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