Getting Crushed In Upfront, NBC Tries New Ratings Metrics

Another fourth-place ratings finish has meant another hellish upfront ad sales session for NBC. In fact, about the only positive thing that NBC execs are saying about sales this year is that it’s a good thing 50% of NBC U’s (GE) revenue comes from cable TV.

But as the nothing-to-lose network, NBC has the opportunity to try some new things — like year-round scheduling, and now a ratings experiment with Nielsen. NBC and Nielsen have struck a deal to create a new ratings system that merges Nielsen’s TV ratings, online streaming data via Nielsen VideoCensus, and sales data from Nielsen’s measurement of consumer products, including packaged goods, pharmaceuticals, automotive and movies.

While it won’t change NBC’s tough position selling TV ads over the next few months, this makes sense long-term. Why?

First off, NBC has some shows that perform really well on the Web, including “30 Rock” and “Saturday Night Live” — and they benefit if those numbers are included in the overall measurement of their shows. Second, the current ratings system, which uses a sample of 14,000 homes to measure America’s TV preferences, is flawed and totally divorced from the point of advertising — selling products.

NBC U sales chief Mike Pilot — an import from GE; think Alec Baldwin’s character from “30 Rock” — is a fount of new ratings/metrics ideas. He’s hamstrung, though, until NBC Entertainment’s newish co-chairman Ben Silverman can bring in the broad hits (and comedies) that made NBC No. 1 for so long.

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