How local TV used to be measured in the United States reminds me of the iconic fairy tale Cinderella. There was a wicked stepmother who treated her own daughters well, but Cindy got the shaft (or at least the broom). Local TV used to just be a hodge-podge of small samples, a mixture of varying methods of differing quality, which produced differing results, bouncing numbers, and many, many markets with hardly any clothes—I mean, rating information—at all.
Well, in real life, like the fairy tale, there is a Prince Charming to rescue the fair maiden.  Rentrak’s massive and passive measurement will soon include 60 million TVs and 26 million homes. That will be about one in four households. Our approach is the same in each market—365 days a year, 24 hours a day.
One great thing we are able to do is provide metrics that have traditionally been just the province of national TV—like engagement, or what we call “stickiness.” As noted in previous blogs, Rentrak’s measure compares the average percentage of a program or series viewed to the average of programs of the same duration to create a comparable metric across programs of different lengths. (It is easier to watch 50 percent of a 30-minute show than a 60-minute show.) Average percent viewed has been validated as being directly correlated to advertising effectiveness from work done at the media agency Zenith.
An example is below from an actual market with actual TV shows. This shows the straightforward rating (vertical axis), and average percent viewed (horizontal axis). For clarity, news programs are green diamonds, game shows are blue boxes, sitcoms are purple circles, and gossip shows are orange triangles.
Looking at programs this way gives leverage points to all sides. The station airing the 10 p.m. news can say, “My ratings aren’t the highest, but I have a high average percent viewed.” The agency can say to the station airing the third 10 p.m. news show, “You have high ratings, but your audience isn’t very engaged.” However, the “fairest way in the land” to look at the shows, is to employ Rentrak’s Stickiness Index—or TV engagement metric—as mentioned above. The chart below takes the same programs, indexes the ratings to the average of the selected shows, and applies the duration-based Stickiness Index.
There is not a lot of movement in the upper-right quadrant of higher ratings and higher engagement except celebrity news slips a little bit in terms of Stickiness value. The big news is the shift into the high Stickiness, lower rating quadrant of two news shows and a game show. This is because, compared to other shows of the same duration, they have a lot of engaged viewers.
I’ll be glad to share the actual data with any Rentrak client. And yes, these charts are produced along with a spreadsheet in Rentrak’s local system—though they have “been put in a prettier dress” for the ball.
Not a fairy tale and a happy ending!
In case you don’t know, I am Bruce Goerlich, Chief Research Officer at Rentrak, the global standard in movie measurement and your TV Everywhere measurement and research company. I have been in the research end of the marketing business for more than 30 years primarily on the ad agency side, with my last stint prior to Rentrak in the role of President, Strategic Resources Zenith Optimedia North America. Somewhere along the way I morphed from young Turk to old fogey. Now that I have grey hair and am horizontally-challenged, I can speak with some authority on advertising and research issues – which I will do from time-to-time on this blog.
 I’m not talking about Rentrak’s EVP of Local Television, Steve Walsh—though he could play the part.