For a long time, media companies have been pressing for better metrics in the digital age. Improved metrics would more accurately measure the number of people viewing content as "TV everywhere" continues to grow. Consumers are now watching television wherever they happen to be, making traditional viewing numbers focused on television set viewing at home less accurate than they used to be.
This is good news for content providers, as it will result in more advertising revenue once data is considered more accurate by advertisers. To that end, Nielsen (NYSE:NLSN) is the company that marketers prefer to measure the data, since they want to know without a doubt that they are getting the eyeballs they are paying for. That will be a long-term benefit for Nielsen, as video-on-demand services and a number of mobile devices are going to need to be measured.
Shares of Nielsen have climbed over 47% over the last 12 months, with most of that growth coming from the middle of August onward. This growth came as news of the determination of media companies to secure better data (and for advertisers wanting the data to be reliable) has been covered widely in the media.
Neilsen's core TV metric climbed 5% in the third quarter, with expectations that this type of growth should continue because of the high demand for data in the sector. According to the company's latest earnings report, its mobile video measurement program should be available sometime in the fall of 2014 as well.
Nielsen also has a new Top 10 list this year, named Nielsen Twitter TV Ratings Top Series of Fall 2013. Leading that list is "Breaking Bad" from AMC TV, which after each new episode of the show averaged about 6 million people viewing Tweets about it. "The Walking Dead," also from AMC TV, was the next most-watched, garnering about 4.9 million Tweet viewers.
On the network side of things, this is all good news. It is coming at a time when it appears that overall TV viewership is declining, so adding all of the time-shifted data that they can will help slow this decline and prop up revenues and earnings. This is especially true with top-rated shows.
A good example of that is this year's top new show "The Blacklist," from Comcast's (NASDAQ:CMCSA) NBC. When adding time-shifted viewing to the show's numbers, an increase in the total 7.8 million from the live audience numbers can be seen according to Nielsen's Tops of 2013 list.
Advertising revenue in the third quarter for Comcast increased 2.6% in its broadcast segment, while it was down 10.8% in its cable advertising segment. Most of that was attributed to a political spending drop and a lack of the Olympics.
But overall, when a media company is able to show its viewing numbers are higher, the accompanying higher advertising rates will follow, which means the base revenue will rise, which is good news for those companies with quality content.
Under the Dome
The next show that has added many viewers as a result of time-shifted metrics is "Under the Dome" for CBS (NYSE:CBS), with 5.44 million additional viewers watching the show. CBS doesn't have to share revenue with anyone for the show as it owns 100% of it.
Add to this the fact that CBS has "NCIS," the no. 1 show on television, along with "The Big Bang Theory," which is the no. 1 comedy on television, and CBS has a pretty formidable lineup. Combined, these shows attract over 20 million weekly viewers.
Advertising revenue in the last quarter was up 4%, largely attributed to the successful summer lineup at CBS. On the network side, advertising revenue jumped 13%.
Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D
The Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS) has a new hit with "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." The show also benefited from strong time-shifted viewing numbers, coming in fourth behind "The Blacklist" in that regard. It had an additional 5.34 million viewers added. Disney continues to be led by its ESPN ad revenue, which has moved up a nice 9% in the latest quarter.
At ABC, ad revenue jumped 10% on higher rates and more ad units sold. Again we see how time-shifted metrics will help to boost those numbers going forward. It could also boost scatter pricing, which refers to buying advertising slots after the season launches. Upfront buying points toward buying advertising before the season starts.
The Following and Sleepy Hollow
Twenty-First Century Fox (NASDAQ:FOXA) had two entries among the top 5 time-shifted viewers this year, with "The Following" and "Sleepy Hollow" generating good numbers. "The Following" increased its viewership numbers by 5.6 million, while "Sleepy Hollow" grew by 5.33 million.
Advertising revenue was up 6% domestically (minus political viewing) and 21% internationally at Fox, although currency rates negated some of the increase in markets outside the U.S. Where Twenty-First Century Fox shined was with scatter (need-based) advertising, where it was selling at double-digit pricing against upfront pricing.
Changing advertising market
It appears that including time-shifted metrics is going to be a nice boost to media companies that produce quality content. Marketers will now have to balance up-front pricing with scatter pricing better than they have in the past. Time-shifted metrics are changing the game because of the increased number of viewers counted after the show airs on its scheduled night.
Investors need to consider this and continue to do research so they can take into account the effects of more eyeballs for those companies producing the best content. You should also keep a close watch on Nielsen, as it may be undervalued because of the growing demand for expanded metrics.
Gary Bourgeault has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of Walt Disney. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.