Transactional Sechel?

If you ever spend any time among media people, especially in New York, you’re bound to hear the term sechel.  A fascinating 2013 piece by JEWISH WORD’s George E. Johnson offers some context and how even those who have never spent a second in Hebrew school value it:

Pronounced sekhel in Modern/Israeli Hebrew and seykhel in Yiddish, it can mean intelligence, smarts, brains, reason, common sense, cleverness or even wisdom. Sechel is defined in the authoritative Eben Shoshan Hebrew Dictionary as “the spiritual ability to think, to weigh, the strength to judge and to come to a resolution…In his autobiography, Songs My Mother Taught Me, Marlon Brando writes at length about the transformative role Jews played in his personal development in the 1940s. At the conclusion of his tribute to Jews and Judaism, Brando tries to reduce what is special about Jews to a single word: sechel. “There’s a Yiddish word, seychel [sic], that provides a key explaining the most profound aspects of Jewish culture,” he says. “It means to pursue knowledge and to leave the world a better place than when you entered it… 

Some people spend a lifetime engaged in such pursuit, living every day in the hopes of adding to their personal database and perhaps the ability to impart it to others.  (I dare say that’s often what actually drives me to wake up most days.).  But if you’re someone who is hard-pressed to find a viable angle to headline a huge upfront presentation, there’s probably so comfort in knowing that for the right price, you can find someone to provide sechel to you hand-delivered.

How else can one explain the timing of Nielsen’s latest iteration of its monthly GAUGE report, which has become an outsized and overly anticipated snapshot of how TV is consumed, with this new wrinkle that just happened to drop on the very day where the entity at the top of the list was delivering said presentation.

As the press release from Nielsen that was released to media outlets yesterday trumpted:

Nielsen, a global leader in audience measurement, data and analytics, today launched The Media Distributor Gauge, a first of its kind, cross-platform view of total TV consumption across broadcast, cable and streaming, aggregated and ranked by media company. The new insight removes the siloes of traditional television versus streaming, and puts all content distributors on a level playing field to allow for additional perspective of TV viewing today.

Brian Fuhrer, SVP, Product Strategy & Thought Leadership for Nielsen Global Media, and the executive charged with the creation and publicity of all things Gauge, used his LinkedIn feed to offer this introduction:

Sometimes a simple view can be helpful to illustrate some really complex strategies. Hopefully this will be useful on a number of levels. Special thanks for everyone across the industry that provided guidance and feedback.

The intent of the report is to provide a lens that purpotedly more closely resembles how entities are packaged to potential advertisers and sponsors, effectively by publisher.  As an industry friend summised for me, “it’s anything that hits the screen”.  (Provided, of course, it’s a screen that Nielsen is currently capable of measuring, which regular readers here know is an ongoing issue for moi.)

But lo and behold, look what publisher just happens to come out as number one, well ahead of the consistent clubhouse leader of late.  And notice how even Nielsen’s corporate-speak narrative drives the point home:

As the top performer in April, Disney accounted for 11.5% of TV viewing, with 42% of its share attributable to viewing on Disney+ and Hulu. YouTube was the No. 2 overall company with a 9.6% share of TV in April, followed by NBCUniversal at 8.9%, Paramount at 8.8%, and Warner Bros. Discovery at 8.1% to round out the top five. Netflix was sixth with 7.6% of TV, and the second-highest streaming distributor reported.

And, shockingly, just as Disney ad sales chief Rita Ferro morphed from animation within a FAMILY GUY sketch (hey, plenty of past FOX executives got that treatment, too) to her human presence to kick off the late afternoon conviviality, that very statistic was prominent displayed in thousand-point type across an array of HDTV screens.

Almost lost in translation with all of this was the fact that within the Media Distributor Gauge’s new Top 5, those that ranked 1, 3, 4 and 5 drew the majority of those robust numbers from  good old-fashioned and increasingly passe linear TV.   Another way to spin this might have been that 58% of Disney’s dominance came from its array of broadcast and cable networks, a point the Nielsen release drove home in its spinning of the April 2024 version of the old-fashioned Gauge:

Cable was the only category in The Gauge to escape decline as it achieved a second consecutive monthly increase in share, moving up from 28.3% of TV in March to 29.1% (+0.8 pt.) in April. Cable sports viewing increased 28% vs. March, bolstered by NCAA basketball tournament coverage, NBA playoffs and the NFL draft. Women’s NCAA basketball finals and semifinals coverage accounted for four of the top six cable telecasts in April, and the WNBA draft notched 17th.

Quick reminder: ABC and ESPN were the home of everything save for NCAA–which just happened to be on Paramount and WBD.  And WBD benefitted from NBA playoffs as well.

Perhaps the biggest takeaway was that despite having nothing like that in their April portfolio, the NBCU family of networks edged them both, with their linear components equalling Netflix’s 7.6% figure.

So it’s pretty obvious to me who was the driving force in getting Nielsen to provide something that casts a more favorable light on a company which has encountered especially sluggish reception of late on Wall Street, notably among some of its shareholders–even its competitors also stand to benefit from this.

But they’ll have to overcome the likes of buyers who show off their own sechel, which is their responsibility during upfront negotiations.  Prominently featured in a reply to Fuhrer’s LinkedIn sharing were buzzkillers like this one from TVB president Steve Lanzano:

Unfortunately the Guage (sic) report includes all viewing and not just ad viewing which would be much more relevant to marketers and make these numbers look quite different. What is needed is an addendum which only includes advertising only viewing.

And Connelly Partners’ media director Erin Mullaney seized the moment to offer her own version of sechel via her recent Thought Leadership blog:

For advertisers to understand today’s media consumption habits at a macro level, there are three important key metrics: reach, time spent, and ad availability. And you can’t do advertising without #3. 

Yet, there’s been a massive gap in this data for Connected TV. While advertising headlines repeatedly discussed CTV growth, the reach and time spent around ad-supported CTV was nowhere to be found. So much so that the CP Media team developed our own estimations in May of last year, compiling disparate data sources to better inform our clients. 

While more people have CTV devices, what percent of the population can you actually reach through CTV ads? Here’s a look at the top 5 CTV subscriptions’ ad supported reach:


Want to a wild guess how well received Connelly was yesterday morning, when Amazon delivered an extended presentation just ahead of the Disney afternoon?

Connelly is using data compiled from eMarketer, which may or may not be accepted by her clients as readily as Nielsen.  But she does show a decent amount of ingenuity in how she and her team were able to derive a very valid and fact-based counterpoint to the kind of heavy-handed salesmanship that Disney was able to coerce Nielsen to provide them at a most crucial time.  Say this much for Nielsen: if you’re a paying client, they’ll be willing to create an entirely new report at your behest.

After all, we all know sechel sells.

Until next time…


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