Media Measurement Future of TV Addressable TV

Comcast Advertising boss urges industry cooperation to fix ‘broken’ measurement system


By Hannah Bowler, Senior Reporter

December 22, 2022 | 6 min read

A “messy” TV ecosystem is putting buyers off according to James Rooke, who says it’s time to work with the competition.

James Rooke president of Comcast Advertising

James Rooke, the president of Comcast Advertising

President of Comcast Advertising James Rooke is calling for media companies to put aside competition and collaborate to fix TV’s “broken” measurement system.

At Comcast, Rooke oversees operations of its ad sales and adtech businesses, which include Effectv, FreeWheel and AudienceXpress. Comcast’s advertising arm used to primarily sell local ad spots for its cable business but has been realigned to focus on adtech and programmatic advertising.

Rooke tells The Drum that after a decade of “overallocation of budgets to the big West Coast companies,” clients are looking for a reason to return to TV but are put off by the issues of buying multiscreen. “Buyers are asking for simplified access to scaled multiscreen inventory,” he says, but adds that when the whole system is built on live TV schedules, it makes buying and measurement “messy”.

He says the entire “engine room” of TV advertising needs to be “rebuilt” and that that can only be done through industry collaboration. “If the engine rooms can’t be rebuilt in a way that solves the multiscreen world that is coming, buyers will find it hard to execute their plans.”

Measuring an ad on a set-top box and a desktop and on CTV is a "nightmare” he says. Every TV network is focused on this challenge and is working with a pool of adtech providers trying to find solutions.

Comcast’s strategy is to work with multiple partners instead of betting on an individual measurement company in a bid to fuel competition and innovation. Right now, there is one dominant player, Nielsen, that is unable to measure across platforms.

“Comcast’s belief is that the best way for the TV industry to grow is to collaborate with partners across the industry, so that means acting and doing things that are in service of the industry. If we don’t do that then buyers are going to say it’s too hard and that threatens the underpinnings of a healthy ecosystem.”

As part of this business strategy, Comcast licenses its set-top box data to several different measurement companies, including Comscore and VideoAmp. “We have scaled video inventory for traditional TV and streaming and it needs to be measured in the right way and we know our data can help solve that – that is our end game.”

Asked about attribution models, Rooke rebuffs the question to say: “Right now we don’t even know if an impression was delivered. That is the most basic thing, but right now we can’t do that. Can we just fix the first problem?”

In the next decade, streaming will be the primary way video is delivered so the industry needs to prioritize measuring an ad impression before jumping ahead to measure the result.

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Simplify the buying process

Rooke tells us that clients are calling out for media companies to make it easier to buy premium multiscreen inventory. The current ecosystem is complex, he says, with a multitude of companies, adtech solutions and platforms.

For big agencies or brands, “they don’t want to know how the sausage gets made,” he says, they just want to buy and get reports back easily. Rooke admits that Comcast needs to do more to unify its business units so brands can get all their needs served by one entry point. “That is a clear ask from the industry.”

Addressable advertising is another area where buyers are struggling to navigate the complex ecosystem, he explains. Every distributor has a different way of trading, which has made it a tricky buy. To solve this, the major US distributors came together in 2021 to launch Go Addressable and set industry standards. In July, the consortium introduced a set of guidelines that spanned addressable types, creative format and creative length. “If you can’t make it simple for the buyer they are going to spend the money elsewhere.”

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