When C3 ratings arrived on the network TV scene two years ago, they forever changed the national TV currency. But it’s unlikely that L3 ratings (live plus three day), introduced in January by Nielsen in its 21 local people meter markets, will have as much effect, if any.
At least three major buying shops—Starcom, GroupM and Carat—stated they will use only live ratings to place their clients’ campaigns.
Nielsen (Mediaweek’s parent) came up with the different metric to provide some insight into the impact of time shifting on local TV audiences. Backed by the Television Bureau of Advertising, L3 was introduced as a happy medium between live and the little-used live plus 7.
But unlike C3, which was embraced by the network TV community, the local ratings don’t take into account viewing to ad spots. And there lies the rub for many buyers. They just don’t know for sure how many of those L3 viewers actually watched the ads. “We know commercial avoidance is about 60 percent. Any time you delay viewing, you increase avoidance,” said Ellen Drury, president of local broadcast, GroupM Matrix.
Station sellers believe L3, which includes 75 hours of time-shifted viewing, is a better indicator of true audience size. According to a Nielsen study of March LPM data, about 90 percent of all local playback occurs within three days. “The problem with live-only ratings is that bigger prime-time programs get a fair amount of playback—about 75 percent of it is on the same day,” said Kathleen Keefe, vp of sales for Hearst-Argyle TV, which would like to see live-plus-same-day ratings. “The playback audience is quite valuable and we need to be able to monetize it.”
It’s a familiar debate. “We had that same conversation with the networks. They want credit for viewers. We told them we’d give them credit if the audience watches the commercials,” retorted Sam Armando, Starcom’s senior vp of video research, who found that the live rating came closest to C3 in all dayparts and demos (see chart). “The goal is to get the number that best represents the audience to our commercial.”
Ideally, what would end the debate, is C3 for local markets. Unfortunately that’s an expensive proposition for Nielsen, whose local systems are set up to report local viewing by average quarter-hour. As an alternative, Nielsen is mulling whether to introduce yet a third metric to the mix: live plus same day.