ComScore, Rentrak Chiefs on Why Media is Celebrating Today and What’s Next for the Measurement Giants

“If you listen to all of the CEOs of the great content companies, they all say that there’s a crisis of measurement,” Rentrak’s Bill Livek tells TheWrap

ComScore and Rentrak announced plans Tuesday to merge, forming a media measurement company poised to challenge Nielsen, long the industry dominator in television audience measurement.

The changing media landscape has seen audiences shift from day-and-date TV broadcasts and toward delayed and digital viewing. Monday’s deal brings together two companies that potentially complement each other.

“If you listen to all of the CEOs of the great content companies, they all say that there’s a crisis of measurement,” Bill Livek, CEO of Rentrak told TheWrap. Livek will serve as president and vice chairman of the new company, with comScore CEO Serge Matta maintaining his current title. “Serge and I saw that a few years ago and we’ve been building our respective platforms. At Rentrak, we’ve been building our VOD and our total TV measurement platform. Serge has been building a great digital platform. We’re bringing them together.”

Livek and Matta spoke with TheWrap about the trends the motivated the merger, the future of television measurement and whether there are more acquisitions in the company’s future.

Has Nielsen been put on notice today?
Livek: No, we would never say anything like that. Who’s been excited today are all of the media owners and all of the ad agencies, because finally they have a census-based and massive and passive measurement across all the screens. We’re bringing digital along with TV in merging the measurement over 28 days. It’s a great day for media to celebrate.

What are the industry trends i driving this deal?
Livek: We’ve been reporting that in the last year, the same number of minutes of TV has been viewed [as in the past], they’re just being viewed over 28 days. And in the last year, video on demand and DVR usage over those 28 days has increased over 17 percent. When you add the extra viewing that happens on the Internet, and comScore can prove it, there are a lot more people watching ad-supported TV.

All of that viewing that you just described is being monetized in different ways. Is there a compelling need right now to have an overall view of viewership?
Matta: There is a clear need for cross-platform across all platforms and de-duplicated audiences. As Bill mentioned, TV viewing has actually not declined. It’s just being consumed on many other devices across multiple mobile devices, over-the-top devices, smart phones, tablets, PCs, you name it — as well as, obviously, the TV set. This is an opportunity at scale to measure not only just the content that they’re viewing, but this allows us to measure the advertising effectiveness across all these platforms.

Will being able to give a more holistic view of who is watching what change the way that advertising for video is sold?
Matta: There was a senior executive in our industry who was recently quoted as saying that if there was a true cross-platform, at-scale measurement service, it would actually increase TV ad spending. That, I think, is a very pointed comment to make. We clearly believe that, and once the regulatory process goes through, we’re going to build those products so that can come true.

Do you see more acquisitions in the combined company’s future?
Matta: Yes, but we’re not going to speculate on what or which or when. We’re both going to run as individual companies and respect the regulatory process, and then we’ll update everyone with what our plans are on a going-forward basis.

But are you going to continue to grow the company?
Matta: We’re going to continue to be innovative, right? The industry and the market is begging for an innovative way of doing measurement at scale, and we’ll continue doing that. Does that mean through more acquisitions, more partnerships? All of the above is yes.

How is the increasing automation of ad buying going to shape the way that you approach the business in the future?
Livek: Now time is a demographic. A viewer who may be watching a big network comedy show, a luxury car company is probably not going to want to be on it, because it’s not efficient. Ironically, after day 14, it becomes a very upscale audience. I guess it’s the old anecdote, even rich people have to laugh. Now that inventory becomes targetable for the ad agency that handles high-end cars, also for the networks that have those shows. Video on demand inventory has gone under-monitized.

Do you see one standard of measurement emerging in the same way that the live TV rating had been until a few years ago the industry standard?
Livek: Yep, and it’s comScore.

But what is it that we’re going to be counting?
Livek: My friends told me that I should be watching a TV show on NBC called “Blindspot.” I asked them, “What is it?” They explained it to me, and I said, “That’s interesting.” I didn’t watch it live, obviously. I didn’t know to record it. But I went to my video on demand and I watched it a week afterwards. I thought “Darn, that’s pretty interesting.” And I plan on watching it on my DVR. Now when am I going to watch it? Whenever I have time. It’s not going to be live, and it probably won’t be three days after. It’s when I have time. That’s what’s changing. There’s so much great programming that all these networks are investing in, the consumer doesn’t have enough minutes. But they’re viewing it. They’re just not viewing it necessarily in the way the old currency was structured. The new currency will be structured around how the consumer is using multiplatform television.

Matta: And they may access it on a mobile device or an over-the-top device, or withing the home or out of the home. That’s the power of all of this — measuring it when it’s consumed, and that consumption could happen in two, three, 28, 30, 40 days, whatever. You just need to be able to measure it across all devices.