NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- The push to find a better yardstick for TV audiences is gaining momentum. After years spent paying TV networks for a measure of the masses watching each of their programs, Madison Avenue is drilling down and eagerly partnering with new companies that can provide a more detailed picture of the viewing habits of the average couch potato.
For more than a year now, ad agencies, media buyers, TV networks and cable operators have unveiled new pacts that aim to give advertisers what they say they need: better data on how potential viewers of commercials watch TV, not just show by show, but second by second. This week, the pattern intensified, as CBS signed on with TiVo to use the technology company's second-by-second ratings, and as TNS Media Research and DirecTV unveiled the formation of a national audience panel whose viewing patterns would also be measured on second-by-second basis.
'Beyond pure impression'
The deals are all geared toward collecting data on audience behavior, so that advertisers can target them with ads that are more relevant to their lives, said Michael Kelley, a partner in the entertainment, media and communications practice of PricewaterhouseCoopers. "It's moving beyond the pure impression," he said, speaking about the old model of simply paying for a measured number of people who watched a particular piece of content.
Developing new measures becomes particularly important as technology allows consumers to interact with their TVs much as they do the computer. Advertisers want to know what makes consumers stick with one program, or how they jump from one channel to the next and why. "Can we move now to engagement? Can you tell me who is engaging with the ads?" Mr. Kelley asked.
Before the advent of mobile and online technologies, where user reaction could be easily noted and measured, collecting data on the mass reach of a piece of media was sufficient. With the rise of hundreds of cable and web outlets devoted to niches such as history or Texas music, however, audiences have become smaller and more concentrated. These new deals will pave the way to paying for media that deliver audiences who exhibit an affinity for a particular product or service, said Mr. Kelley, who envisions a time when marketers will be willing to pay a premium to media outlets that can deliver concentrated numbers of pregnant women or cooking aficionados.
Other deals have already been struck. In November 2006, Starcom USA struck a deal to make use of second-by-second viewership data that TNS was collecting from Charter Communications subscribers in the Los Angeles area. NBC, Starcom, Interpublic Group of Cos., Crispin Porter & Bogusky and Euro RSCG Worldwide have also signed on to use TiVo's second-by-second data.