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Scoop: NBC local TV group will no longer use ratings to sell ads

Illustration of golden television on top of pedestal
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Beginning this week, all NBC and Telemundo-owned local TV stations will use impressions instead of traditional ratings points to measure an ad campaign’s effectiveness, according to an agency pitch document obtained by Axios.

Why it matters: Local TV and radio are the last forms of media to still rely on traditional ratings points to measure the effectiveness of an ad campaign. Nearly every other type of media uses the cost per impression (CPM) to measure an ad's effectiveness.

  • According to the document, NBC/Telemundo owned-stations' sales teams will begin to move to CPM measurement "starting immediately."
  • "Consumers no longer only watch TV in a traditional linear fashion – Rating points only measure linear television," the document says. "Local TV needs to measure video viewing across all platforms."

Be smart: Most local TV stations have websites and apps that distribute content on multiple platforms besides live, linear broadcast, but an antiquated ratings system has made it hard for them to sell against any kind of digital viewership.

How it works: Broadly, by switching from ratings to impression-based measurement, media buyers can target more people. That's because there are a number of areas that are too small to create a ratings point, so agencies couldn't target long-tail TV audiences in more remote communities.

The big picture: Most agencies don't transact on impressions at the local broadcast level, says Kathy Doyle, EVP of Local Investment at MAGNA Global. "We were the first ones, and as far as I know. The other media agencies I've spoken to were talking about putting it in place for 2020, last I heard."

What's next: Expect other local television groups to move to impressions quickly. Once agencies begin transacting at the local level for one group via impressions, the entire ecosystem will follow.

  • TV networks plan to include out-of-home (OOH) audiences in national ratings in 2020, Variety's Brian Steinberg reports. That would have major ramifications for networks like ESPN and CNBC, which are mostly viewed out-of-home.

The bottom line: "This is a game-changer for local," says Frank Comerford, the chief revenue officer and president of commercial operations for NBCUniversal Owned Television Stations.

  • "We need to do this and should’ve done it a long time ago but no one wanted to upset the Apple cart. But now, the risk isn’t upsetting marketplace, it’s missing the marketplace."