In the U.S. competitive television business, Nielsen, more than any other research company, symbolizes and dominates audience measurement. But since the announced acquisition of Rentrak by comScore in September 2015, which still needs approval by government authorities, the Rentrak-comScore combination will seek to challenge Nielsen’s supremacy. While Rentrak specializes in moviegoing and television viewing measurement, comScore focuses on online audiences.

Given this context, the Media Management Association (MMA) was particularly fortunate to welcome Dawne Richards, Rentrak’s Product Senior Vice President, to speak to its members on December 1. Not only did she discuss the characteristics of Rentrak television services, but she also described the evolution of audience measurement in general.

Richards first pointed out that the brand name “Rentrak” originated from a contraction of two words, “track rentals,” in reference to video rentals. She then stated that Rentrak provides advertisers with audience measurement services that assist them in achieving their goals through more specific target advertising. The company obtains and tracks viewing behavior on 37 million televisions in all 210 American markets as well as 125,000 screens in 25,000 theaters in 64 countries.

“What has always interested me is painting a picture of persons on the other side of the screen,“ Richards said. “If you can see the person behind the screen, you can write better messages, have a better creative strategy, and advertise in right places.”

During the question and answer segment, Richards addressed the increasing importance of measuring product placement in branded entertainment. Due to the growing popularity of streaming and on-demand platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Video, commercials can be skipped entirely. “Product placement in movies and television shows can’t be skipped,” explained Richards. “This is going to become a much larger part of advertising.”

As a seasoned data analyst, Richards provided her audience with an invaluable look into the business of media measurement. Both students and faculty thoroughly enjoyed her presentation.