Warner Bros Discovery Signs Deal With Measurement Firm VideoAmp As Industry Continues To Explore Nielsen Alternatives

Warner Bros Discovery has enlisted measurement firm VideoAmp to track ad campaigns across screens for the company’s network and brand portfolio, which spans sports, news, lifestyle and entertainment.

An announcement of the companies’ agreement said it followed the completion of a “first-of-its-kind test-and-learn” process designed to turn up alternative ways to gauge video ad performance. The process has grown more complex as streaming, social media and digital outlets have surged — across a much broader distribution dashboard — and traditional linear viewership has declined. VideoAmp will look to commingle set-top box and smart TV data in order to help ad buyers and planners.

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The agreement is the latest signal that the media business remains on a quest to develop viable alternatives to Nielsen measurement. While Nielsen is still in business with WBD and other media giants, and complaints about the firm have been common over many decades, it has fallen under a darker shadow of skepticism in recent years. The Media Rating Council, an independent, non-profit watchdog, has revoked its accreditation for Nielsen’s national TV ratings in the wake of admissions by Nielsen that it undercounted both linear and streaming viewers. The company has publicly apologized, but CEO Sean Kenny has maintained that any errors were relatively minor in the scheme of things. While a number of upstart rivals have emerged in recent years, Nielsen remains the dominant force in measurement, though the runup to this spring’s upfront season figures to be a multi-player contest.

During his time leading Discovery, which merged with WarnerMedia in April 2021, WBD CEO David Zaslav repeatedly expressed frustration with Nielsen’s methods. Speaking with Wall Street analysts on an August 2021 earnings call, the exec didn’t mince words. “Unfortunately, Nielsen is a whiff. And it’s just massively disappointing that Nielsen can’t get its act together,” he said. “We have lost money. Everyone has lost money. You’re dealing with a very antiquated delivery system. We’ve all learned how to get along with it. We do it by augmenting with our own data. But recently, they’ve just been wrong. It’s one thing if you have an antiquated system and then you augment it. But the antiquated system itself is unreliable.”

In a press release, WBD and VideoAmp said their agreement is born out of growing unrest. “The industry needs a better way to measure and transact on audiences–one that accounts for cross-platform, supports both traditional and advanced audiences and provides attribution metrics in a manner that enables media sellers and buyers to unlock this potential and excel in a competitive environment,” said Ross McCray, founder and CEO of VideoAmp. “We are excited Warner Bros Discovery is creating a more sophisticated marketplace and we’re looking forward to unlocking value for them and the industry as a whole.”

An assessment by WBD of the measurement landscape concluded that there is a need for greater standardization, identity resolution, personification and transaction capability as buyers and sellers look to transact with multiple currencies by the 2023 upfront, the release said.

“Traditional media measurement has not kept pace with how consumers are engaging with streaming and linear content. As a result, these audiences have been undercounted and current measures no longer accurately reflect their true advertising value,” said Andrea Zapata, EVP, Head of Ad Sales Research, Measurement and Insights, Warner Bros. Discovery. “We are gaining momentum as we act on our goals to offer best in class measurement capabilities and provide greater visibility into the return on ad spend across our award-winning IP.”

Ralph Pardo, CEO of major media agency Omnicom, called the companies’ pact “a step forward in
better third-party measurement for the industry.” For his company, he continued, “it has the added
benefit of aligning with our existing Omni Cross-Screen Insights capability and will help us close
the loop for end-to-end planning through activation and measurement.”

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