A week in the life
Colleen Fahey Rush, executive vice president and chief research officer, takes us behind the scenes at Viacom Media Networks, home of Comedy Central, MTV and Nickelodeon. [Editor’s note: This interview was conducted in March and was first published in Impact, the new quarterly magazine of the Market Research Society.]
My week starts with fielding phone calls from reporters. TV ratings firm Nielsen is planning to change its methodology and the journalists want me to comment on what I think of the move. Audiences are well ahead of where measurement is right now - especially our ability to capture how people are watching TV on different devices like tablets - so I think it’s good that Nielsen is taking these kinds of steps.
Later I meet with my three main go-to people to discuss the consumer insights projects that we’re going to be working on in the next six months. We talk about the priorities that our internal partners have and what help they need.
We work very closely with a variety of departments within Viacom, sitting in their strategy meetings and with their staff so that we can get to know what their priorities are. We shape our research programme based on that. We know that authentication - or what some people refer to as “TV everywhere” - is a big thing at the moment, so we decide to move forward on some research in that area.
I head down to a meeting with the Media Rating Council, an independent body that evaluates and audits research measurement here in the US, to talk about problems surrounding the measurement of kids’ digital media behaviours. Kids are born into this digital world and they are using all these different devices for fun and to communicate, and while we do loads of research on kids and mobiles, and how kids are consuming content across screens, we don’t really think that Nielsen is catching all of these behaviours - especially when it comes to digital. It’s difficult because you can’t directly survey a kid that’s under 13, but it is a major issue for us.
After that I have an executive committee call for CIMM, the Coalition for Innovative Media Measurement. Viacom is a founding member of CIMM and I’m currently the chairman of the executive committee. CIMM’s focus is to try and make progress in the area of cross-platform media measurement, so on the call we debate some of our next projects and talk about an event we’re going to have in April to help make sure that the whole industry knows about all the good things that we’ve got going on.
“My meeting with the COO only lasts an hour, but I always walk out of there with five more things to do. so the first thing I do when I get back to my desk is try to put those things in motion so that we can keep the information flowing to him”
Every other Wednesday we put together a newsletter to send to people internally to share what we’re learning about our audiences. It’s a great way to remind everybody of the depth and breadth of research that we have going on here and to inspire questions from the various teams within the business.
With the newsletter done, it’s time to call my counterpart at Unilever to discuss any consumer insights work that we might want to partner on. We have a special relationship with Unilever, which I find very helpful because it helps me to consider research projects through the lens of a major advertiser.
This week also sees the release of a piece of research we’ve done on connected TVs. I’m shown the presentation for the first time today and it’s really interesting. Now that I’ve seen it, we’ll do an internal roadshow with it - bringing it to all the other research teams, as well as the content distribution people, the product people and senior management. We’ll try to leverage it as much as possible so that everybody is learning together.
Today is my weekly meeting with Tom Dooley, Viacom’s COO, to review the dashboard – which is basically a series of reports that we create to share with him how our ratings are going for all of our channels and what the competitive landscape looks like. I also make sure to have a couple of special deep-dive presentations to walk him through as well.
We do a ton of analysis on how our brands are performing and how our shows are doing and what’s happening out there in the media industry. that’s what my team does: a lot of heavy lifting around that centralised reporting, and my job is to know everything about everything.
My meeting with the COO only lasts an hour, but I always walk out of there with five more things to do. So the first thing I do when I get back to my desk is try to put those things in motion so that we can keep the information flowing to him.
Part of my job is to work closely with senior management to prepare for our quarterly earnings calls – and these have a way of coming around very quickly. We do a mix of broad and granular-level reports and analysis to make sure that senior managers know absolutely everything that they could possibly get asked about during the call. In today’s planning meeting, we review the material that we prepared for last quarter and we figure out what we’re going to do for the coming one.
Friday also sees me laying the groundwork for the following week. On Monday we’re having an offsite meeting for everybody in Viacom media networks who works in research. There’s a ton of detail and panels and speakers to organise but it will be a great day full of people coming together to learn and hopefully be inspired.
And then we’ll have a cocktail party.
Colleen Fahey Rush was speaking to Brian Tarran