The Role of Audience Measurement in the Evolution of TV Everywhere

One of the points I emphasize in both Audience Evolution and its precursor, Audience Economics, is that history has shown that the key to a new media technology or platform gaining a foothold as an economically viable advertising medium is the establishment of an audience measurement system that is widely perceived as reasonably accurate and reliable.  This point comes to the forefront once again in the context of the current state of affairs for the cable industry’s TV Everywhere initiative.

As this recent report points out, the main impediment, at this point, to cable networks agreeing to allow cable systems to make their programming available over multiple platforms (including computers, iPads, and mobile devices) is the fact that these newer platforms at this point still lack “an adequate system to measure viewing.” 

Any cable network that embraces TV Everywhere will likely expect that some significant percentage of audience attention will migrate from measured to unmeasured viewing platforms.  As a result, a greater percentage of the totality of audience attention becomes what I call in Audience Evolution “dark matter” (borrowing from the astronomy term for matter that we know is there, but we can’t actually see).  Obviously, audience attention that can not be effectively measured is much more difficult to monetize in the audience marketplace.

Solutions, such as Nielsen’s Extended Screen measurement system, are emerging; but as is often the case with any new measurement system, various forms of resistance from particular stakeholder groups tend to slow the process down (this is another major point of emphasis in Audience Evolution).  As this piece points out, factors ranging from the expense, to concerns about methodological limitations (some platforms, such as iPads and smartphones remain unmeasured); to strategic considerations regarding how the value of audiences varies by platform; are all serving to slow the rate at which cable networks take the plunge into TV Everywhere.

This scenario provides us with the just the latest in a long history of examples of the incredibly influential role that systems of audience measurement play in the development of new media technologies and services.

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8 Responses to The Role of Audience Measurement in the Evolution of TV Everywhere

  1. Fascinating that audience measurement may be one of the stumbling blocks for TV Everywhere. Could it be that part of the problem is the wholesale reconsideration of what to measure, as advertisers shift from program viewership metrics to ad viewership metrics?
    Also, does this reflect higher expectations on the part of advertisers for audience measurement metrics? Back in the old days, no one knew the actual number of viewers, but everyone agreed to go with Nielsen’s estimates; but today many digital platforms allow the measurement of actual streams/views/etc. So, now that those measurements may actually be more reliable than the old estimates, could it be that advertisers are less willing to pay more for metrics they may see as less relevant today? Would be interested in your take on this: feel free to tell me to read the book!
    Thanks!

    • pnapoli says:

      Yes, it definitely seems that the issue of ad viewership metrics has a lot to do with this. In order to be measured by the Extended Screen system, the commercial pods must be of identical length and contain the exact same advertisements across all platforms, which is something that most programmers (a notable exception being TBS) have been hesitant to do at this point.

      And on the issue of expectations, I think it’s not only that expectations have increased in some ways (given the ability on some platforms to measure actual views/streams, etc.), but also that traditional measurement systems (such as panels) are finding it increasingly difficult (due to audience fragmentation) to meet minimum expectation levels that were set for them. These are systems that, historically, nobody really tries to hard to improve upon until there is a widespread consensus that they are broken. And that’s certainly where we’re at right now.

  2. Thanks! If programmers and advertisers are debating whether or not to vary commercial loads on different platforms, do you think that Nielsen risks losing customers if they insist on identical pods for measurement purposes? I am especially curious about potential competitors to Nielsen in this area. Look forward to reading more.

    • pnapoli says:

      It does seem like an opening for a measurement firm with a system capable of providing cross-platform commercial ratings without requiring identical pods (my sense is that, in today’s environment, Nielsen’s market position is a bit more vulnerable than it has been in quite some time). But keep in mind that for some programmers, the reluctance isn’t just about the need for identical commercial pods; it’s also that they like to maintain different transactions for different platforms because the CPMs can vary by platform, and they don’t won’t to lose the ability to price accordingly; which they lose if their audience is reported in one lump sum. One of those cases in which not everyone is fully embracing convergence.

  3. Adam says:

    This makes me wonder about the data collection from my TV Everywhere service. DISH Network is my HD TV provider/employer. From them I got a Sling Adapter as well as the free DISH Remote Access app. They let me watch all of my TV channels and DVR content from any compatible smart phone or tablet with 3G/4G or WIFI. I can also view and control all the content on my DVR. I don’t know if they are able to gather good data from the service. I think it is more about giving the customer options rather then gathering data. I think DISH really has the right idea when it comes to TV Everywhere.

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  6. blissfulj says:

    Great post! The challenges of getting accurate audience measurement and targeting in today’s TV Everywhere world are myriad. Good points, though.
    http://crowdscience.com/products/audience_demographics

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