Broadband Cable Association of Pennsylvania


September 20, 2013

Nielsen has long been a kingmaker in the TV industry. Its ratings data, which tracks viewership of shows, determines how advertisers shell out some $66 billion annually. But the company has been slow to adapt to new technologies and expand its reach to other media services, industry critics say. Now Nielsen is making some significant moves.

Next week Nielsen will announce plans to augment its TV ratings data with information on viewing on tablets and smartphones, meeting a major demand of media companies that say they aren't getting credit in the current system for viewing on mobile devices. The change won't take effect until next fall's TV season, however. Nielsen also plans to roll out a planned Twitter-related ratings service on Sept. 30. It will measure the audience that sees tweets about TV shows to help gauge their popularity. Early findings showed that for every one tweet about a TV show, roughly 50 people see it, the company says. Meanwhile, the company's $1.3 billion acquisition of Arbitron Inc., a radio measurement company that also has technology to advance Nielsen's TV measurement capabilities outside homes, could get approval from the Federal Trade Commission as early as Friday, people familiar with the situation said. It would likely come with conditions including one to ensure Arbitron continues a measurement initiative with Nielsen rival comScore Inc., one of the people said.

Nielsen hopes the changes will advance its ambition of meeting industry demands for a one-stop shop to track how media is consumed across different devices and in different places, like homes, cars, airports or bars. Currently, there are different metrics for viewing of shows on TV sets and online, for example, and no good gauge of viewing on iPads or other tablets, making it difficult for ad buyers to plan campaigns and TV networks to monetize their fare.

Some 25% of U.S. TV households have tablets, Nielsen says, and while mobile device viewing is still a fraction of traditional TV viewing, it is increasing, especially in younger demographics, making measurement challenges more urgent. "The reason we're investing heavily and moving quickly to measure this is that it is set to grow at a fast pace over the next couple of years," said Steve Hasker, president of Global Product Leadership for Nielsen. Consumers used to watch only user-generated content and short clips on mobile devices, but "watching long-form TV content on mobile devices has become mainstream," said Tom Godfrey, executive director, mobile strategy at research firm Frank N. Magid Associates. A survey last month by the firm found that 18% of respondents watch full length-TV shows on tablets, up from 5% in 2011.

TV network and advertising executives have been critical of Nielsen for moving too slowly. Brian Hughes, senior vice president of audience analysis for Magna Global, the ad buying arm of Interpublic Group of Cos., said advertisers often must piece together measurement data from numerous providers or consumer surveys, which can be "tricky" and less reliable. "The industry has been slow on mobile measurement," he said. "Young people watch stuff whenever they can and on different devices."

The cry for better measurement grew louder during this year's TV ad sales season in May, partly because of the drop in TV ratings suffered by the TV broadcast networks. The lack of universal measurement has hurt the money flow to online video advertising, ad executives say. "Money always follows the audience and research is needed to validate an audience," said Lyle Schwartz, director of research for GroupM, an ad buying unit owned by WPP PLC.

Mr. Hasker said Nielsen's "cross platform" measurement plans have taken time, because they require consensus from media and ad industry clients. "Those things can't be changed unilaterally by Nielsen, and can't be changed instantly," he said. He said that when the industry moved to capture time-shifted viewing-including three days of playback in TV ratings-that also took time. He acknowledges that Nielsen was organized earlier in silos-groups dedicated to TV, online and mobile initiatives that didn't always coordinate well. He said that has changed.

Nielsen also faced some major technological hurdles. Its approach for TV -putting electronic meters in households that listen for audio codes in shows -didn't work well on mobile devices, because their battery power is precious and their operating systems don't always allow multi-tasking. Apple Inc.'s iPad, for example, doesn't allow programs to run concurrently for extended periods of time, so installing metering software that would run while a video is being watched was hard. And Apple's operating system has a security feature that prevents such software from accessing audio codes in TV content. An Apple spokesman declined to comment.

Nielsen found workarounds and said it has filed for patents related to its mobile-measurement solution. Under the system that will go into effect next fall, TV networks will be able to upload TV shows for mobile apps with the same national commercials as on regular TV, and Nielsen will detect it and credit viewing toward their TV ratings. Later, the TV networks can swap in new digital ads to generate additional revenue.

Nielsen's Twitter TV ratings come amid intense TV industry interest in determining the impact of social media usage on viewing. Some critics have questioned whether tweets are a good measure of a show's popularity. Mr. Hasker acknowledges there are some limitations. "Not everyone tweets, and tweeters tend to be a relatively well-defined demographic, but the reach of that platform is growing by the day," he said. Wall Street Journal

U.S. Spanish-language broadcaster Univision Communications Inc has in recent weeks held discussions with banks about an initial public offering, according to three people familiar with the matter, as strong stock markets encourage private equity owners to seek exits for their portfolio companies. New York-based Univision was taken private by a group of buyout firms including Madison Dearborn Partners, Providence Equity Partners, TPG Capital and Thomas H. Lee Partners for $12.3 billion in March 2007. The company is leaning toward an IPO, which may come in the second half of 2014, as the board continues to evaluate the company's strategic direction, one of the people said, adding that Univision has not yet made a formal decision to proceed with the offering. All the people asked not to be identified because the discussions are confidential. Univision, Madison Dearborn, TPG, Providence and THL declined to comment. A surge in the equity markets this year has encouraged large private equity-backed companies to pursue IPOs. Hotel operator Hilton Worldwide, which was taken private by Blackstone Group LP for $26 billion in 2007, said earlier this month it intends to raise upwards of $1.25 billion from an initial public offering. Oil and natural gas company Antero Resources Corp, controlled by private equity firm Warburg Pincus LLC, is planning a $1 billion IPO.

Univision owns a highly rated Spanish language broadcast network that sometimes beats English language broadcasters such as NBC in the primetime ratings race. It also owns another broadcast channel called UniMas, as well as several cable networks and a stable of Spanish radio stations. Mexican media conglomerate Televisa, which also provides a chunk of Univision programming, made a $1.2 billion investment in the company in 2010. As part of the deal, Televisa took a 5 percent Univision stake and bought debt that could be converted into a stake of up to 30 percent in the broadcaster. Univision's second-quarter earnings grew 28 percent this year to $40.7 million. Revenue rose 10.4 percent to $676.5 million. Reuters

One week after he pledged to remain neutral on the governor's race, former Gov. Ed Rendell has been forced to explain why he's hosting a fundraiser for Allentown mayor and gubernatorial candidate Ed Pawlowski. The fundraiser, which will be co-hosted by Rendell and his law firm Ballard Spahr tonight, will raise money for Friends of Ed Pawlowski, a political action committee created to fund Pawlowski's bid for mayor. State campaign finance laws permit money from that PAC to be used to run other campaigns, including a gubernatorial bid.

For months, Rendell has pledged to stay out of the governor's race until after the Democratic primary, but just last week he was forced to "clarify" that position after questions were raised about his allegiance to candidate and U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz. Rendell and Schwartz were featured on the invitation to a fundraiser for Emily's List, a group that has endorsed Schwartz, and several other candidates complained to the former guv that the invitation was misleading. "I thought it was clear that the fundraising was for Emily's List," Rendell said at the time. "Apparently not."

But the money raised at today's fundraiser is clearly earmarked for the Pawlowski's campaign. Rendell said the fundraiser was scheduled prior to Pawlowski's announcement earlier this month that he would seek the governor's office. Money was supposed to be raised for Pawlowski's mayoral campaign, Rendell said. Pawlowski is simultaneously seeking a third term as mayor of Allentown. "My law firm agreed to host it. We had no idea he was going to declare for governor," Rendell said. "It put me, inadvertently, in a very uncomfortable position." Rendell said he plans to honor his commitment and attend the event, but Pawlowski will not receive any money from Rendell's PAC unless he survives the Democratic primary, he said. "I admire him and what he did as mayor, but I'm staying out of the governor's race," Rendell said.

The crowded Democratic field, many with strong ties to Rendell, has made it necessary for the former governor and Democratic bigwig to step back from the race. Three - Katie McGinty, John Hanger and Tom Wolf - served in Rendell's cabinet, and his relationship with Schwartz extends back to Rendell's days as Philadelphia's District Attorney. Rendell has also spoken favorably about Pawlowski, saying he could be a contender if he is able to raise enough money during the campaign. Since his announcement on national television Sept. 8, Pawlowski has secured commitments for $123,000, said campaign manager Mike Fleck. Allentown Morning Call

Just when you think you've seen everything in Philadelphia and Pennsylvania politics comes an offer from a politician for a free shredding service.

Philly Democratic state Sen. Mike Stack issued a press release Thursday saying that his office located in the Parkwood Shopping Center at Academy Road and Medford Road in the great northeast is offering a "shredding event." The release says the event is a "free opportunity to safely get rid of sensitive documents" and will be held Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon. "Stack's event will give TV stations and newspapers a great photo opportunity as people drive up to the senator's office door as he and his staff unload the deliveries and shreds (sic) the documents," the release says.

Interested parties can bring up to three boxes of documents. No mention of box-size limits. Two things: when you think of a politican and shredding "sensitive documents" only one thing comes to mind; and when you think of the timing of this event, I'm betting former legislative colleagues of the Senator -- and now I'm thinking Fumo, Perzel, DeWeese, etc. -- wish Stack would have offered this service some years ago.

And while the prospect of "a great photo opportunity" could be a deterrent for some pols, it's possible a few members of City Council or a couple local union officials or maybe some current lawmakers might find the service attractive. After all, it's sponsored by Polonia Bank whose motto is "Providing Future Security." And, since Stack is among a gaggle of Democrats looking at a run for governor next year, this could win some points with fellow-officeholders. Oh, and there were two Stack press releases. The first said the event is Sept. 14. The second "corrected" release apologized and said the event is Sept. 20. Guess that means we can, you know, shred the first release.