With ‘bad behavior’ in the past, Comscore focused on winning cross-platform measurement

Comscore CEO Bill Livek believes "we will be number one" in cross-platform measurement

Since completing its $768m acquisition of Rentrak in 2016, five people have held the title of chief executive officer of Comscore.

The revolving door began to spin just two weeks after buying the TV measurement company when Comscore ousted its then-boss Serge Matta following an investigation of the company’s accounting practices.

Now, three years on from setting its sights on cross-platform measurement, Comscore has inserted former Rentrak boss, Bill Livek, as the measurement firm’s chief executive officer to finally help realize that vision.

Livek comes into the role after Comscore earlier this month settled a fraud case with the Securities and Exchange Commission over its improper financial practices for $5m. Livek says that type of “bad behavior” is in the past, and that the company is moving forward around three key business areas: digital, cross-platform and TV measurement.

“Right now it is about execution, and executing on new ideas,” Livek tells The Drum, regarding Comscore’s go-forward plans. “We don't have all the answers, but we do have a culture of listening and innovating. Now that all the bad stuff is behind us… we're focused on moving forward.”

Comscore bought Rentrak with the hopes of bridging the TV and digital worlds to offer clients a cross-platform view of consumer engagement. But that hit a snag in April when former chief executive Bryan Wiener and president Sarah Hofstetter departed over irreconcilable differences with the board. Digiday described the internal drama as a “Rentrak takeover”.

Comscore has since worked to build its TV offering, and it has restructured its business into five units: cross-platform, activation, movies, digital and custom.

Livek, who spent nearly seven years as chief executive of Rentrak, says that the board is aligned today and is moving forward with a common goal of helping its customers “manage their business more profitably”.

Livek is immediately focused on rolling out digital and cross-platform products. He believes Comscore will be “number one” when it comes to cross-platform measurement because of its current solid footing in digital and set-top box measurement.

“When you combine the two, we're measuring the new consumer and how we're being entertained,” says Livek. “But this stuff is not going to change in one day.”

There may not be an exact expiration date for the cable business, but TV consumption is drastically moving away from set-top boxes and onto connected devices.

Comcast, the country’s largest cable provider, has lost 583,000 pay-TV subscribers since the beginning of 2019; AT&T lost 1.2 million satellite and fibre-optic TV customers just last quarter. Meanwhile, eMarketer expects connected TV ad spend to grow 40% this year to reach nearly $7bn, and by 2021, it will exceed $10bn.

Livek says right now over-the-top TV is a relatively small part of the business, but it’s an “increasingly important piece to the puzzle” for Comscore.

He also recognizes that set-top boxes will “ultimately be replaced” by IP-based TV. To that end, Comscore has struck a deal with Inscape to use its automatic content recognition data to measure attribution on connected devices and modernize its cross-platform approach.

Despite ever-changing leadership, record-low stock prices, misreported finances and recent layoffs, the industry still looks at Comscore as a needed competitor to measurement stalwart Nielsen.

Livek doesn’t see Nielsen as competitive, but instead views the measurement landscape as a “basket of currencies” to give buyers and sellers a more full view of the media landscape.

“The marketplace really needs to have two currencies,” says Livek. “It's not us or the other guy.”

The company named Livek its newest boss on 5 November when it reported third-quarter earnings of $94.3m, down from $102.9m in the prior year’s quarter.

Revenue in Comscore’s ratings and planning department came in at $65.3m in, a $5m drop from Q3 of 2018. However, revenue from TV and cross-platform products were flat compared to the same period last year, with Comscore attributing the relative steadiness to higher local TV revenue and increased delivery of cross-platform products.

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