Turner wants to ‘retire’ Nielsen model, champions OpenAP format in fan-focused upfront

Turner president David Levy told the audience at yesterday’s Upfront that it is time to retire the Nielsen model.

The upfront showcased Turner’s commitment to an ‘omnichannel’ approach to its content, which expands from the linear TV experience to create an integrated hub of experiences through multiple platforms, each solution specifically tailored to the source material. Examples of the omnichannel at work: a podcast, pop-up costume exhibit and immersive web experience for period suspense drama The Alienist for TNT, and a comedy tour to promote the Tracy Morgan-helmed comedy The Last OG for TBS.

Samantha Bee, host of late night talk show Full Frontal, also contributed a brand opportunity for a game that incentivizes registered voters to actually vote.

The omnichannel approach also has infrastructure behind it, a newly-announced solution called AudienceNow, which has been billed as an evolved form of its TargetingNow solution, created in 2013. The cross-screen targeting has been Nielsen-certified. Complementing the new cross-screen solution, its limited commercial interruption (LCI) model that it integrated for select programming for TruTV in 2015 is expanding to the entire day by 2021, and will incorporate the LCI model to CNN, TNT, Adult Swim and Turner Sports broadcasts.

Turner, understanding its role as a major hub for content, has expanded its agency-like Ignite capabilities with a new arm for branded entertainment called Turner Ignite Studios. This new branded content arm, set up similarly to CNN’s brand studio Courageous and Turner Ignite Sports for its sports outlets, was created to create custom branded solutions for digital, social and mobile for channels TBS, TNT, Adult Swim and unscripted/reality network TruTV.

David Levy took the stage and said to the audience: “We are in a new era of media and it's time to retire the Nielsen television metric. While it undoubtedly served its purpose, it no longer fully captures how to successfully measure an audience in today's landscape. Turner has pioneered innovations, such as audience targeting, that more effectively align a brand’s messaging with audiences that directly impact their business. Audience targeting works and is generating drastically greater results for our advertising and marketing partners. The time is now – this upfront – for advertisers to change how they think about the value of their marketing and invest in audience targeting!”

Turner’s Donna Speciale, president of ad sales, spoke on Turner’s commitment to the omnichannel stating: “We can no longer sustain relationships based solely on TV viewership. Today, we are redefining what an advertising partnership should be measured against, modernizing it for the way fans engage with our premium content. And, we’re simplifying it into a single media plan."

Speciale also referenced the OpenAP consortium, that NBC and Univision recently joined, growing a list of media companies such as Fox, Viacom and Turner, that has become a growing attempt to achieve a reliable cross-platform metric. She added of Turner’s approach: “Our clients have asked us time and time again that, in order to secure deeper investments from them, we had to create more premium omnichannel experiences with proven advertising solutions. Over the past half-decade, we delivered on our promises; now, it’s time for our clients to deliver on theirs. Let’s stop leaving money on the table and start creating brand experiences that not only produce much greater results on the bottom line, but also inspire fans in new, exciting ways.”

The programming opportunities themselves were fan-focused, among them, the new partnership with Uefa's Champions League and sports site Bleacher Report co-hosted by Steve Nash; the announcement of an expanded 24/7 streaming platform from Adult Swim; and ditties from Cartoon Network, TruTV, Adult Swim and others that told the audience of buyers to start looking at its viewers as ‘fans’ of the content.

Levy added: “Turner has invested in omnichannel experiences across the portfolio,” referencing truTV’s Impractical Jokers that also extended into live events and a feature film, its investment in ELeague sports, late night shows from Samantha Bee and Conan O’Brien that both have expanded multi-platform hubs, and its Inside the NBA coverage featuring Shaquille O’Neal, who made multiple cameos. “We’ve made these investments because we know the value and importance to engage with fans.” He continued, “It’s no longer enough to just have viewers – you need fans.”

Turner, a Time Warner-owned company, made little mention of the current status of its AT&T merger — except in a joke from Conan O'Brien in a roundtable with Shaq and Anderson Cooper. But the mention of Nielsen further adds to the conversations forming around Nielsen's role as metric standard bearer, and the growing acceptance to the OpenAP way of measuring and attribution.