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Why TV is Moving to Impressions-based Measurement and the Benefits to Local

September 26th, 2019   ||    by Brooke Phillips

In recent weeks, there has been a tectonic shift of sorts happening in the broadcast media business. One after the other, we have seen broadcast groups – including NBC, CBS, ABC, Hearst, Graham and Gray announce that they will move away from ratings and begin using impressions, as their basis for measurement and selling. This fundamental change, championed in part by TVB (the Television Bureau of Advertising) and their Local TV Impressions Campaign, reflects the industry’s need to capture and measure the ever-evolving behavior of viewers who consume content across platforms and devices.

Make Way for a New Way

The traditional approach of using ratings to measure a campaign or plan a buy has been – or rather, was – simply the accepted, standard way of doing business. And no parties have been particularly willing to change or rock the boat – until now, thanks to technology. By shifting to impressions-based buying, television, particularly local, can now offer brands and agencies insight to the actual number of people watching, instead of a general percentage. This also enables TV to legitimately compete with the granularity offered by digital and at the same time, measure audiences across platforms with a common metric. As TVB simply says, “The use of Impressions ensures that all viewers on all screens are counted.”

Impressions also happen to be the basis for Videa forecasted ratings, which launched this past summer. Videa uses four years of impression data from Nielsen and Comscore to determine a set of averages to produce a ratings forecast. (Buyers can buy spot TV on impressions or ratings with Videa.) Learn more about how Videa ratings stack up by reading our ratings study comparing an agency’s forecast against Videa ratings and then what was actually delivered.

For agencies and buyers, the use of impressions equips them with a standard set of currency data – CPMs (cost-per-impression) – with which to strengthen their buying strategy. So, instead of having separate budgets for digital, spot TV, and national tv, a brand could potentially buy cross-platform using the same measurement standard, impressions, to purchase – and thereby, reach a larger audience. As other industry leaders have already pointed out, the move to impressions creates a more level playing field by enabling audiences to be aggregated across platforms.

Local Now in the Mix, Big Time

For local broadcasters and sellers, technology such as automated buying/selling platforms and timing, have finally aligned to create the necessary industry momentum to embrace this change. And though there are likely some industry watchers out there who claim there’s really no big difference between impressions and ratings – that both measure eyeballs on a screen – try telling that to the buyer whose client wants to buy local. For most of recent local broadcast history, that local spot buy wouldn’t have been in the mix – the necessary ratings research and conversions were too time consuming and tedious. It was simply easier to just buy national and leave it at that.

And even more frustrating, some local audiences aren’t measured at all or a program is given a zero rating because local ratings only capture audiences of a certain size and up. That smaller, ignored audience – who just may also be your client’s “right audience” of buyers – slips through.

Now, with an industry shift to impressions-based buying, we can expect more dollars to return to local tv as part of a cross-platform buy. Impressions-based buying will also enhance the effectiveness of automated TV buying and selling – offering a standardized view into an unwalled garden. And who doesn’t love a nice garden?

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