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.