Citing its successful measurement of total viewing at the PyeongChang Olympics in February — spanning live, time-shifted and on-demand, on any platform — NBCUniversal is rolling out what it calls “the industry’s first unified advertising metric.”
CFlight, as the new measurement is known, aims to deliver advertisers a comprehensive sense of how their marketing campaigns are being seen, regardless of where or when. NBCUniversal plans to use this metric to create a new currency and offering guarantees of campaign performance in the company’s programming, especially where significant audience consumption is on digital platforms. One-third of all NBCU long-form digital video viewing occurs on over-the-top (OTT) platforms.
The move comes as traditional broadcast and cable networks are facing historic levels of competition for ad dollars from tech giants like Facebook and YouTube. While ABC’s powerhouse numbers for Roseanne prove there is life left in the traditional broadcast model, many legacy players have responded to the trend of spending shifting toward digital by making significant investments in digital platforms. NBCU, for example, has taken sizable stakes in Vox and BuzzFeed and stepped up partnerships with the likes of Snapchat. At the same time, the company and many peers have sought to underscore the high caliber of their programming so as to differentiate it from the more ephemeral, low-budget video populating YouTube and other digital arenas.
“Consumer behavior has changed the way our content is consumed, and it’s time for metrics to catch up and show the true power of premium video,” said Linda Yaccarino, Chairman, Advertising and Client Partnerships, NBCUniversal. “Using the Olympics to measure all screens and provide an accurate count of our audiences was just the beginning. As our industry questions the strength of digital-first advertising, we are guaranteeing that campaigns running around NBCUniversal content, regardless of platform, are reaching true, valuable audiences at scale.”
Laura Molen, EVP, Lifestyle and Hispanic Advertising Sales, told Deadline in an interview that the launch of CFlight stems directly from NBCU’s organizational evolution over the past couple of years. Yaccarino’s purview, for example, and the focus of her team, is sales across all platforms, rather than just broadcast and cable. “We have been moving in this direction for some time,” Molen said. “We also are going to continue to work with the measurement companies as they develop new solutions.” Nielsen and smaller rival ComScore have been the target of criticism from many networks for their struggle to capture a complete viewing picture.
The impressions-based CFlight metric will be based on a composite score developed from independent, third-party sources to equate linear and digital media viewing. NBCUniversal calls it the industry’s first cross-platform advertising metric that only counts digital impressions viewed to completion, a move that aims to enable brands to hold digital to the same high standards of TV. As with TV, the new digital impressions metric will include co-viewing on platforms where it is measurable, including on Roku or with NBCU programming on Hulu.
In making the announcement, NBCU furnished a testimonial from one of a powerful agency voice, GroupM Chief Investment Officer Lyle Schwartz. “Since the start of time-shifted and TV anywhere viewing, GroupM has championed expanded audience measurement, first C3 and then C7, to capture the total audiences of our partners’ programs and our clients’ advertising,” Schwartz said. “NBCU’s move is a step in the right direction, consistent with work we’ve being doing market-wide to get to measurement of commercial viewing, in addition to more complete program ratings. Measurement must keep up with the fluidity of consumption to justify our clients’ investments.”
After the announcement was already out this morning, Nielsen sent a statement to Deadline affirming that its commitment to “evolving measurement of the media landscape has been unwavering over the past 68 years.” A company rep also expressed support for NBCU’s rollout of CFlight, saying it reflects the fact that “we’ve been working closely with NBCU and other key industry leaders on solutions to expand the currency definition so that it takes into account cross-device consumer viewing behavior as well as media owners’ desire for more flexibility in receiving currency credit for audiences to ads.”