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July 17, 2006

The Weather Channel Offering Minute-By-Minute Ratings

The minute-by-minute data from Nielsen which we've been writing about has already led to a television ad deal, according to Television Week. The Weather Channel was one of the first networks to be interested in the minute-by-minute ratings available from Nielsen. Considering the constant flow of their programming and the nature of their continual weather updates, minute-by-minute ratings will likely be particularly helpful, so it's no surprise that The Weather Channel would be one of the first to sign up.

Their new deal with media-buying agency Starcom guarantees make-good ads for eight Starcom clients who have placed ads with them if their viewership falls under the promised level.

The difference in these ratings is that The Weather Channel will be using true-minute-by-minute advertising, while most other networks plan to average all the commercial time within a particular program and make that data available to advertisers, rather than the particular minute containing their ad.

It says a lot about the faith of networks that most are going to average together all the advertising minutes in a program and then plan to make that average available. And, for media buyers like Magna, there are even questions as to how viable the minute-by-minute ratings will be, as I wrote about last week. Minute-by-minute data includes VCR viewers (who stastically never watch the program a third of the time, and, if they do, fast-forward through commercials 2/3 of the time) and DVR viewers who may watch the commercials up to a week later (a dangerous conception for time-sensitive ads), Magna claims that the numbers are skewed. Further, they claim that numbers will be significantly inflated because minutes are considered as "commercial" minute if they contain commercial time, even if more than half of that minute is programming instead of advertising.

If we accept the farce of Nielsen ratings as being the be-all and end-all of television viewer measurement, minute-by-minute ratings are the closest we've been offered to accountability at this point. But, considering the driving force of product placement deals and Internet ads, the true winners are those who are focusing increasing attention on non-traditional advertising forms.

In the meantime, though, the controversy rages on.

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