TV Shifting to Impressions Measurement… Will Radio Follow?

The Television Bureau of Advertising announced in late 2019 that it is planning to lead an industry wide change involving the transition from a rating-based to an impression-based system of audience measurement for television. Their plan is to implement these changes in 2020. Is it possible that radio will follow in suit?

Many big players in the television world are on board with the change. This includes NBC, CBS, ABC, and other television media giants. Ratings got the job done in an era of limited media platforms, but simply won’t cut it in today’s fragmented and measurable media landscape.

The problem that the TBA is trying to solve stems from the local TV market being based on cost per rating point. This is calculated by taking a program’s Average Quarter Hour Persons and divides them by the population. This is called a rating. These ratings are shrinking. An impression-based system solves this problem by providing more granular measurement that minimizes ratings compression. Costs would then be based on a cost per thousand impressions system. The bottom line is to give media sellers more power when it comes to pricing and simplify the job for advertisers when they are buying media by having everything on a common metric. A large part of this transition is educating key stakeholders on the benefits of the switch.

Now, the radio industry isn’t just closing their eyes and covering their ears while all of this is going on. Brad Kelly, Managing Director of Nielsen Audio says, “Advertisers are telling us having a commonality of metrics would ease cross-media planning and buying, and help remove friction from their processes.” Kelly is not the only decision maker for the whole industry of radio. There needs to be a consensus in the marketplace for any change to start being implemented.

As of now, there are no signs that radio is either for or against a change in metrics in their respective industry. However, one can only imagine they are feeling the pressure to innovate as they watch their fellow traditional media giants make the switch.

Industry leaders like Tom Langmyer say, “TV and radio are the only mediums that typically don’t transact based on CPM calculations, but we have the data.” A metric that can highlight the value of using radio as an advertising platform could be exactly what the industry needs. However, radio “must continue to sell integrated marketing plans, sponsorships, events, and unique experiences that aren’t valued solely on impressions. That’s where smart sales and marketing people provide even more value,” Langmyer states.

This transition allows for simplification when buying and selling media, accurate targeting and evaluation, less friction in media planning. Is this decade going to be the comeback for TV and radio? 

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