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28 January 2021

Comscore leapfrogs Nielsen’s D2C movie measurement with Hollywood help

Last week, we observed that Nielsen’s new cross-platform movie measurement service was yet another death knell for cinemas. Caught in a Sisyphean struggle, cinemas must have an enormous headache from all the bellringing, as Comscore has been quick out of the gate with a beefed-up copycat service – announcing the newest segment in its measurement suite.

Comscore Movies Everywhere aims to track movie sales across all release windows and platforms, including direct-to-consumer (D2C) OTT and box office sales. It is the latter that is important, as Nielsen’s TVoD (theatrical video on demand) measurement service, with the ink barely dry on the announcement, does not account for movie theater ticket sales.

Far-reaching and holistic measurement capabilities such as these are going to be essential for movie studios as they navigate the rapidly shifting entertainment ecosystem in the coming years.

Not only does Comscore’s new product further legitimize these changes, but it has been delivered with a seal of approval from Hollywood’s creative community. Both Paramount and production company United Artists Releasing endorse the initiative in the press release, suggesting this is just the tip of the iceberg of studios striving to stay informed about how to best monetize content as the distribution landscape shifts.

Movies Everywhere will host a new reporting system to exclusively track movie performance across all platforms, bringing together Comscore’s existing box office and transactional video capabilities.

Movies Everywhere will combine box office performance statistics with data on demographics, audience sentiment and consumer behavior. This will be measured across all distribution channels, including cinema box offices, transaction VoD, OTT rentals, and streaming views.

The key question is what differentiates this offering from Nielsen’s? The incorporation of movie theater box office statistics seems to be Comscore’s trump card.

Of course, for as long as cinemas lie empty, this data does not exist, but, as the world slowly creeps out of lockdown, movie studios are going to pay top dollar to keep tabs on whether distributing to cinema is going to be worthwhile. Any measurement platform that incorporates box office statistics under the same roof as D2C VoD and rentals is bound to be the popular one.

Comscore’s box office statistics are census-based. The company has said that it will be able to track and synthesize the demographics of moviegoers at both national and regional levels.

Even more striking is the open endorsement that movie studios and production companies are granting Comscore’s initiative. “The undeniable reality is that the pandemic has forced us all to throw out conventional wisdom and take a fresh look at how we operate,” said Chris Aronson, President of Domestic Distribution at Paramount.

This just goes to show that there is no hiding from the seismic shifts that are already underway. If the studios are having to confront this reality publicly, then the cinemas cannot keep their heads buried in the sand. No matter how comforting the sympathetic talk of theaters returning “in force” might be, as Aronson believes, there is clearly some cognitive dissonance at play here, and that is not the end of it.

In the middle of a press release that underscores the rapidly growing D2C movie distribution format that has already shaken theater owners, Comscore claims that “the prestige, exclusivity and revenue generating power of movie theaters is undeniable.” Talk about mixed messages.

At the very least, Comscore acknowledges the “ever-increasing complexities of the marketplace.”

Production company United Artists Releasing also confirmed that it will find utility in Movies Everywhere. “The industry needs to reinvent the way we capture audience engagement,” said Erik Lomis, President of Distribution. “Going forward, it will be essential to have a complete picture of how content is performing across platforms.”

Comscore is clearly kicking itself that Nielsen got into the headlines first this year, announcing its TVoD (theatrical video on demand) measurement service just last week.  Making up for lost time, the company defended its reputation as a trendsetter by noting that it was the first measurement vendor to issue transparent studio share reports, as well as the conversion analysis for on-demand movies.

And when it comes to movies, Comscore’s set up is already kitted out considerably more than Nielsen’s. Comscore updated its movie reporting capabilities in August of last year, unifying all its data sources on movies, allowing clients to access analytics spanning decades of cinema-level behaviors. The company also provides a theater management system, the Cinema Auditorium Control Engine (Cinema ACE).

Despite arriving a whole week late, our initial reckoning is that Comscore has trumped Nielsen.