Starcom, Discovery HD in Data Pact

NEW YORK Starcom USA has struck a deal with cable network Discovery HD Theater to provide clients with second-by-second data from 300,000 cable homes in Los Angeles that will gauge exactly how many households are tuned in to their commercials.

That data, which is being processed by TNS Media Research, will be used to project a national rating, and Discovery will offer a household viewership guarantee based on the information.

According to Starcom, the agreement represents the first time in almost two decades that a national TV ad buy has been based on ratings supplied by a company other than Nielsen Media Research. That firm, like Adweek, is a unit of the Nielsen Co.

The agreement covers ads placed by clients through the rest of 2007.

The participating companies, including Allstate, Best Buy and Buena Vista Home Entertainment, will produce high-definition TV spots to place on Discovery HD and will be able to compare recall and other engagement metrics between HD and standard-definition commercials, Starcom said.

The issue of producing HD spots is becoming critical with estimates that about 28 percent of homes now have an HDTV set. But most commercials are still produced in standard definition, and there are glaring differences in quality that viewers notice, said Stacey Scheppach, vp, video innovations director, Starcom USA. Early indications are that HD ads have better recall, she said.

“We think there is a tremendous amount of potential in the second-by-second data,” said Scheppach, who added that Starcom believes it may become the currency for more ad buys in the future. She said the agency is talking to other cable networks about doing similar deals based on the TNS data.

There are drawbacks to using that data for bigger deals, including the fact that it does not provide demographic measurements such as the age and sex of viewers tuning in. TNS is developing mathematical models that would project demo ratings in the future, the company has said.