MediaLink’s Matt Spiegel on future of TV metrics: may take 3-5 years for stability

As the major upfronts approach, one of the underpinning currents of conversation within the media sphere has been the current approaches to cross-platform measurement. Concerns of when brands and ad buyers can find the accuracy they're looking for will be addressed at The Drum Live: Future of Video event tomorrow (May 8).

In the chase for a cross-channel currency, Matt Spiegel of Medialink says we're 3-5 years from seeing a few standards. / Medialink

Beforehand, Matt Spiegel, managing director at MediaLink, spoke with The Drum about the legitimate players in the chase for metric currency, how the pending mergers play into Comcast/NBC’s goals to set the standard, and the looming presence of data behemoths Facebook and Google.

Who’s leading the way in measurement right now?

Don’t sleep on Comscore. Their purchase of Rentrack a couple years ago made them certainly legitimate players, and they have a few solid measurements, but they've been quiet for a few years.

Then, there's NBC and the other larger media companies that are inventing their own standards - I think it's the future speaking - but I don't know that they have any chance of becoming an industry currency or measure or standard. I don't think it's realistic. I think it kind of makes sense for those guys to do that, but I don’t think it’s an industry standard.

Then there are these other interesting players in the space, like Truoptik, for example. They have an interesting data measurement capability that could certainly become a standard. I don't know if that's where they're headed, but I think their goals are interesting.

You could also look to companies like Samba TV, Alphonso, and 4C Insights as potential players. I don't think they're trying to be measurement companies, but they have interesting data to play with.

You've got a lot of companies that have come from the digital space - which means they’re used to understanding users at an individual level - that are building business models that aren’t about measurement but could be contributing to new measurement solutions in new audience ratings for measurement total audience count across platforms. My bet is Nielsen and Comscore are still in the driver's seat to own that space, but only if they invent fast enough.

Are some of these companies looking to protect their own interests?

With the power of Comcast/NBCUniversal, you have the ability to get good data because of its digital distribution and reach. We'll see for ourselves because they think they can be more accurate than what's currently out. It could be that AT&T and Time Warner, if they come together, create their own. Verizon may be able to do one, too, especially when it comes to mobile consumption. YouTube or Google or Facebook can also potentially figure that out.

I feel like everyone is trying to do a little bit of something, because everyone's concerned. Large media companies are protecting their own interests and [are] still in a ‘land grab’ mode.

Every big media company without question is investing heavily on understanding how their content is being watched and by whom, and doing as much as they can to be able to use that intelligence, at least for their own platforms. Most players aren't bringing that to market as a measurement solution. But at the core, those investments have the look and feel of industry measurements, even if that's not the end goal.

How do you see this all playing out, and how long do you think it will take to see some stability?

I’m maybe going to say we’ll have a small handful of standards, in the 3-5 year range. What I think could happen is that Nielsen will continue to provide some form of a GRP or total audience ratings, which will still be a key part of it. And then when you transact with NBC, they also have their metric and when you transact with Disney, they'll have their metric. And again a Viacom or Facebook or Google, they’ll have their metric. So, marketers might get used to one metric across them all and then decide based on how and where they put a lot of dollars when they also invest against the others.

My guess would be that what companies will have to do is, we'll have to take data from Nielsen and Comscore, and then from any of these other guys. It’ll be up to marketers as to whether they'll pair it up with the publisher’s metric. We're a long way from saying we'll have a couple of standards. I don't think it happens in the next 18 to 24 months. I think we've got longer to go than that.

Hear top experts weigh in on the current state of industry affairs in the run-up to this year’s Upfronts and Newfronts at The Drum Live: Video Futures. Register for tomorrow's event, hosted at USA Today in New York City at 8:30 AM EST, here.

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