Viacom Inc. signed a seven-year, cable-only contract with
Nielsen Media Research last week.
But while the companies described it as
"far-reaching," executives said later that this deal is less so than Time Warner
Inc.'s record $150 million pact of a year ago.
Viacom's agreement covers its basic networks --
ranging from The Box, the interactive music-video service that becomes Nielsen's 51st
cable-network client, to MTV: Music Television, Nickelodeon, TV Land and VH1 -- as well as
premium networks Showtime and The Movie Channel.
"We put all of our networks on the same playing
field" with one uniform contract, rather than having separate ones that expire at
different times, MTV Networks executive vice president of research and planning Betsy
Frank said after the announcement.
Options have been inserted for the possible addition of new
or acquired networks down the road, she added. As for MTVN's digital networks, those
audiences are too small to generate reliable ratings, she said.
"We're positioned for the future in the best
possible way" by getting involved in Nielsen's plans for new technology, notably
its "Active/Passive Meter" testing, Frank said.
When asked if there were provisions that would incorporate
CBS Cable once the Viacom/CBS Corp. deal is finalized, Frank said, "We didn't
address that" in the negotiations.
The companies said in a press release that the agreement
encompasses "all national services and reports, including overnight ratings,"
demographic ratings breakouts, reach-and-frequency data and the tracking of
advertisers' media spending.
The latter is measured by Nielsen's Monitor Plus. VNU,
which recently acquired Nielsen, owns a similar service, Competitive Media Reporting,
which it now must sell.
A Nielsen spokeswoman said, "We're starting to
see more corporate agreements" like Viacom's and Time Warner's, and
contract terms well beyond the once-typical three- to five-year deals. At least three
others are in discussion, including one that encompasses broadcast and cable operations,
Unlike the Time Warner deal of a year ago -- which covers
its broadcast-syndication operations, The WB Television Network, the Turner Broadcasting
System Inc. cable networks and the Time Warner Cable MSO arm -- Viacom's does not
include its syndication properties under the Paramount Television banner.
Nor does it include Internet measurement, although Frank
said that's already covered under an earlier Viacom contract with Nielsen.