Media

Hey Nielsen: If TV audience measurement ain't broke, don't 'fix' it

New TV

Don’t you hate watching someone work on a ‘solution’ to fix a problem that has already been solved? This is what’s currently happening in the digital media space for television with audience measurement and tracking.

Even though today’s TV everywhere deployments seem fresh and new, the reality is that the ad industry has been laying the foundation for years. Today, there are robust and vibrant means though which audiences are measured, tracked, and targeted. Take audience measurement as an example — today’s digital media players on devices, in apps, and on webpages are just as capable of measuring precisely how long a viewer is connected in the same way Nielsen measures television viewing in the home. But when it comes to advertisements, TV everywhere experiences shine.

In the digital media world, ads can be personalized in a much more relevant, efficient and applicable fashion (think location,  viewing history, one-to-one connection with the cloud).  For measurement and effectiveness of ads themselves, the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) has released a specification known as the Digital Video Ad Serving Template (VAST) to standardize the communication requirements between video players and the ad servers.  Using this technology, we are able to measure audiences, advertisements and impact as well, if not better than broadcast.

Enter the new Nielsen ad measuring software development kit (SDK), which is touted as a single point of measurement for broadcasters (aka those running a traditional linear TV experience) to track additional viewers during programming and the ads included with it. The problem with Nielsen’s SDK is that it’s a “television 1.0″ solution that is late in arriving to the scene for a “television 2.0″ that is just now beginning to hit its stride.

Those running an on-demand or TV everywhere content platform have already solved the measurement problem, and can, in fact, measure audiences in a much more informed manner than broadcast. They do this via individualized internet delivery, which enables much more robust targeting and delivery of programming and ad payload to the user. This method also allows for leveraging metrics like viewing behavior, location, device, and authentication. Yet, there is still a disconnect between these different viewing screens and platforms.  The solution here would be for both platforms — broadcast and digital — to synchronize on a standard which leverages the best of both worlds.

Digital ad models don’t account for over-the-air payloads, and traditional television ads still fetch the highest percentage of advertising spend. Yet, trends show us that advertiser spending on digital ads is increasing with amazing velocity. Over time, brand advertisers will eventually pay higher rates (called CPM) to reach the highly targetable viewer I mentioned earlier. Both models can and should adjust to account the growing number of TV everywhere eyeballs.

Rather than old dogs trying to learn new tricks and pushing a non-standardized way of measuring programmatic content and the ads that exist there, I submit that a more federated approach should be considered.

Programmers and content creators agree that support for all screens is a must have, and revenue patterns are emerging. During a TV Everywhere panel recently at The Independent Show, a trade show for cable operators and programmers, BJ Elias, vice president of advanced services at Fox Networks, said that they derive revenue from both subscription (traditional cable and DBS distribution) and advertising (over-the-top) delivery models. As we’re all well aware, most of the money networks make is driven by those distribution relationships with cable and satellite providers.

However, as TV everywhere becomes simply ‘television’ (independent of the screen on which it is viewed) the ad spend will normalize across both platforms. And the means through which we measure viewership and ad consumption will matter even more. The choices we make and solutions we deploy now will bear more fruit in the days ahead. But only if we don’t apply multiple solutions to the same problem.

Matt Smith-HeadshotMatt Smith is a recognized digital media industry evangelist and thought leader, having spoken at the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) Show, TVNext, Streaming Media East & West, and NewTeeVee, among others. He is presently chief evangelist for Anvato, a turnkey platform solution that enables media companies, content providers, and broadcasters to enable their content to reach any screen at anytime with a robust, powerful and complete toolset. Prior to Anvato, Matt was vice president of technology for Chideo, VP of Internet television at Envivio, architect at Cisco Systems, and VP and chief systems architect at Inlet Technologies. Matt has also served as a key video architect and evangelist for Yahoo and spent several years at NBC.

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