ComScore Digs At Nielsen: Extending Old Approaches To The Cross-Screen World Is ‘A Recipe For Slow-Motion Disaster’

comScoreQ3ComScore is keeping busy.

The online measurement firm announced Thursday that it’ll be entering into a strategic global partnership with Spotify, selling its enterprise digital analytics business to Adobe and launching a new “total home” opt-in panel to measure connected devices in the household, including show-level viewing across Netflix, Roku, Apple TV and Chromecast.

ComScore’s plan to acquire top Nielsen competitor Rentrak for $732 million is also chugging along, with regulatory approval expected in Q1 2016.

The company clearly has Nielsen in the crosshairs.

“A siloed, platform-first view is no longer sufficient for measurement audience planning, transacting and optimizing advertising,” comScore CEO Serge Matta told investors during the company’s third-quarter earnings call on Thursday. “Simply extending old approaches to this radically new world and thinking you can just dump a lot of data on top of an old model is a recipe for slow-motion failure.”

The tension between comScore, Rentrak and Nielsen bubbled to the surface during a panel at Advertising Week in September, when Rentrak CEO Bill Livek told Nielsen: “You’re not the only currency. Please.”

ComScore’s next strategic goal is to conquer the home, historically Nielsen’s purview. That’s what the total home panel is all about. Matta called it a “next-generation media appliance.”

The word “appliance” is apt, as the panel claims to measure content consumption and behavior across the full range of connected devices in the home, including TV, smartphones, tablets, game consoles, OTT, wearables and the oft-cited connected refrigerator, the industry’s mascot for the Internet of Things.

A work in progress, the panel currently touches around 800 homes and 11,000 devices, with roughly 10 connected devices in each household. Matta said he expects the panel to be installed in somewhere between 25,000 and 50,000 homes, with hundreds of thousands of devices, by the end of 2016.

According to Matta, the total home panel data will complement rather than replicate the TV data that comScore will be getting from Rentrak.

Speaking of the planned Rentrak hookup, if the merger goes through, Matta said it shouldn’t take comScore all that long to make the combined data set available to clients.

“ComScore and Rentrak have been partners for a long time and we’ve worked together on a bunch of clients,” Matta said. “It’s not going to take us years to develop this. … Rest assured, it’s going to be quick.”

Turning to comScore’s divestiture of its Digital Analytix product, Matta called it an attempt to “clarify” comScore’s vision and remove a point of contention with Adobe. The two have previously competed for clients on the digital analytics front. Clearing that stumbling block paves the way for potential partnership.

One could argue that it’s a particularly wily move, considering Nielsen’s long-standing close relationship with Adobe. The two teamed up for Nielsen’s Digital Content Ratings offering. It’s also interesting to note that WPP Group, a close partner of Adobe’s, has a $300 million stake in comScore’s business.

Matta was coy, however, when asked whether the sale of Digital Analytix to Adobe is a harbinger of a deeper relationship to come.

“Suffice it to say, that point of friction has been removed,” he said.

ComScore’s revenue for Q3 2015 was up 14% YoY to $92.4 million, and up 19% quarter over quarter. Contract renewal for existing clients remained stable at roughly 90%.

 

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