Thinking outside the box to boost viewers
Amid all the gushing technophilia at last week’s consumer electronics show (CES) in Las Vegas, there were some snippets of interesting news for TV industry watchers.
YouTube’s chief business officer Robert Kyncl predicted that online video would overtake traditional television before the end of this decade. Kyncl quoted Nielsen data that indicated viewers currently watch just over five hours of TV daily, a number that’s been on the wane since 2009. In comparison, online video viewers spend an hour and 15 minutes daily watching online video; not a massive amount of time. But it is growing at an annual rate of 60pc.
Nielsen was also presenting at CES, unveiling its latest Comparable Metrics Report. The research company reported that over 90pc of adults listen to radio each week, while TV comes in at 85pc. The Nielsen report also found that while device usage differs by age, shock horror! — under-50s are less likely to use the big screen in the corner of the sitting room — overall audience figures are growing across all devices. There was, however, a hint that TV viewing on tablets was in decline for 35-49 year olds.
The rise of phones, tablets and non-traditional TV devices has caused havoc for those measuring TV audiences and for media buyers. At CES, Nielsen announced it would be launching a new measurement system that combines audience figures for TV and online. This follows complaints from media companies like Viacom that the current system doesn’t give an accurate reading of universal audience size.
“Total Audience Measurement is already a reality in the US,” says Claire Harris, Nielsen’s TAM/AIS Director. “In quarter four of last year, viewing to CBS content via digital devices was added to the currency ratings service. There are stringent crediting rules in the US around what content can be included in the currency service, which require the commercial load to be the same in the online environment as in the broadcast environment.”
Nielsen is currently working with the advertising industry in the US to review these crediting rules. The upshot will be a standardised approach that better reflects the current media landscape and captures all the devices on which TV content can be consumed, using a set of metrics consistent across all media.
So how will these crediting rules be built and can they measure qualitative levels of engagement? “Attention and influence are not part of the currency audience metrics,” says Harris. “The framework we talk about in Nielsen is the 3 Rs – Reach, Resonance and Reaction. Audience metrics fall into the Reach bucket, while the concepts of influence, attention, and action fall under Resonance and Reaction. We have a variety of methods for evaluating resonance and reaction.
“Nielsen’s Total Audience framework sits on top of the backbone of our TV measurement using a gold standard panel and accredited processes to calibrate and project that data to represent the population. Having the panel-based approach at the core of our solution provides the comparable metrics. Online Campaign Ratings was Nielsen’s first deliverable in the digital space, some five years ago. Panel data is combined with census data from the online space, and demographic data provided by Facebook.”
Nielsen works with different partners in different regions to add this layer of demographic information. “Strategic partnerships are core to remaining at the forefront of audience measurement,” says Harris. “Other recent key examples include Adobe and eXcelate.”Thi
But for all the crediting rules, panels and partnerships, some people are less than impressed. Speaking at the Variety Entertainment Summit, also at CES, Linda Yaccarino, NBC Universal’s chairman of advertising sales and client partnerships took aim at Nielsen’s total audience measurement solution. Of course, Yaccarino had her own axe to grind. She bemoaned how up to hundreds of thousands viewers for shows like Blindspot, are not being accounted for. On the flip side, she pointed out that social platforms and streaming services are turning advertisers’ heads with impressive data on content consumption and reaction on their digital platforms.
“Yes, Nielsen just debuted their Total Audience metric,” she said, “but progress is slow, and we have some serious questions about their methodology. There’s nothing ‘total’ about that metric if you ask me.”
Not a happy camper, then. But let’s remember NBCU’s parent company is Comcast, the largest cable company in the world by revenue, which has its own trove of data. Comcast’s insights are scant consolation, though, when Nielsen’s figures remain the accepted standard of TV viewership. “Imagine you’re a quarterback, and every time you threw a touchdown, it was only worth four points instead of six,” Yaccarino said. “That’s basically what I’m dealing with every friggin’ day.”