Starcom inks Bravo ad deal

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NEW YORK -- After a wide-ranging deal forged earlier in upfront negotiations with Discovery Communications, media buyer Starcom USA said Monday that it has reached a minute-by-minute agreement for ad inventory on Bravo.

It's the first time that NBC Universal has agreed to a deal that uses minute-by-minute commercial data to determine ratings guarantees. NBC Uni was the first this year to agree, with the media-buying conglomerate Group M, to ratings guarantees based on average commercial minutes.

But this deal goes further than that, allowing more granular detail within a given minute that a commercial runs compared with the average commercial minutes that totals and averages the ratings for all spots in a half-hour or hour. Starcom said it has been able to do these types of deals with certain networks because it has worked with minute-by-minute data for a comparatively long time.

Financial terms of the deal, and how many clients were involved, weren't available Monday.

"Bravo is a network that appeals to a lot of our clients, and it was a network that NBC felt was right for this," said Christine Olson, vp cable activation director at Starcom USA.

NBC Uni ad sales chief Mike Pilot said Monday that it is a learning experience for both parties.

"We want to do whatever we need to do to learn and do business with our clients on metrics that matter most to them," Pilot said. "The move toward doing our business on a commercial plus three day currency issue is an example of that."

Pilot said that discussions with Starcom had included a mix of cable assets, but it eventually was settled upon Bravo.

"This is a deal we all hope to learn from," Pilot said.

Starcom president and chief activation officer Chris Boothe said Monday that he believes minute-by-minute commercial ratings guarantees will be the future of the media business even though it might take time to get there. Starcom has been able to do the work sooner with some networks, including Discovery and Bravo.

"Our mission all along has been to be as precise as we can in terms of delivering accountability for our clients," Boothe said. "We ultimately think (minute-by-minute ratings) ... is the right way to go."

Pilot said that he isn't sure yet whether minute-by-minute ratings will end up being the currency of choice in the media industry.

"We're all heading down the road of more accountability," Pilot said. "If this is the metric that gets us there, this is the metric will use."

The remainder of Starcom's deals with NBC Uni's cable entities use average commercial ratings, this year's standard, and includes USA, Sci Fi Channel, CNBC and MSNBC.

Starcom is no stranger to minute-by-minute commercial deals. Last year, it did three, with the Weather Channel, AMC and WE: Women's Entertainment. This year it has completed the Discovery agreement, which includes all of Discovery's channels, as well as Bravo.

Olson said that other minute-by-minute deals were possible through the rest of this upfront season.
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