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Warner Bros. picks VideoAmp and Comscore over NBCU-preferred iSpot, continuing the fracturing of TV measurement

The news: Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD) has selected Comscore and VideoAmp as measurement partners for striking deals with national advertisers during this year's upfront sales season.

  • WBD worked with Comscore, VideoAmp, and iSpot in 2022 to build measurement currencies, but iSpot was notably left out this year. Still, it will remain a non-currency measurement partner.
  • The entertainment giant had established a test-and-learn framework to evaluate third-party measurement providers, identifying four crucial areas: standardization, personification, identity resolution, and transaction capability.

The future of measurement: WBD’s exclusion of iSpot, despite it landing a significant partnership with NBCUniversal, suggests a fractured post-Nielsen measurement landscape, where advertisers will be expected to use differing measures and technologies depending on the network.

  • Networks are aware that could be a lot to ask: Several major players including NBCU, Fox, and more formed the Joint Industry Committee (JIC) in January in hopes of creating a “transparent, competitive, multi-currency environment,” with a goal to certify measurements by spring 2024. It also planned to invite major media agencies to hop on board.
  • The group is currently made up of major TV networks and—in a sign of how complicated the advertising landscape is becoming—includes Roku as the committee's only streaming-only content provider.
  • The JIC invited YouTube to join its ranks, despite the digital video giant publicly disagreeing with the committee’s focus on “long-form,” “premium” content. YouTube hosts videos of all lengths and has recently focused on short-form video and cross-platform measurement. YouTube confirmed receipt of the invitation and is waiting for more information to better understand the proposed framework.

The quality conundrum: It will be hard for the JIC to develop a framework that keeps both network and digital partners happy. Programmers are concerned that a measurement system equating studio-produced content with user-generated and low-cost videos could lead to oversupply, drive prices down and make programming investments financially unfeasible.

  • YouTube’s response to the JIC’s proposals was that all video impressions regardless of platform should be measured in a uniform way and argued against siloing content according to arbitrary factors like production value.
  • That prompted a response from the Video Advertising Bureau warning that only those with high volumes of low-investment content stood to benefit from a singular measurement, which could create a race to the bottom.

Our take: WBD choosing to forgo iSpot as a currency and the JIC’s back-and-forth with YouTube are growing pains of an industry searching for new norms. That the JIC exists at all shows the media industry attempting to provide a bridge to advertisers, but it will struggle to create standards that keep everyone satisfied.

Want to know more about what's going on with TV currencies? Keep an eye out for our upcoming report from senior analyst Evelyn Mitchell, Ad Measurement H1 2023, due out in April.