TV audiences want to watch content that appeals specifically to them. But how do TV service providers determine which content is the most popular and which programs appeal to a particular audience?
Questions such as these are critical when scheduling programs, creating bundles and product offerings, and also for optimizing advertising budgets.
As content is consumed on various platforms, at different times and in different places, new methods and technologies are required. Determining what people are watching in this era of cross-platform fragmentation is that much more complex. With so much TV viewing data being analyzed, the question has to be asked ― have typical Audience Measurement solutions lost their usefulness?
The answer is simple: not at all. Audience Measurement has not gone the way of the dinosaur, but instead has evolved considerably to adapt to the many technologies and preferences of today’s fragmented viewing. To highlight the new complexity in obtaining viewing data, Nielsen, in collaboration with the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) has recently installed a type of watermark —an inaudible signal in a program’s audio — that helps identify the program for audience measurement purposes. This technology is now integrated with ATSC 3.0, the new over-air transmission standard that is set to roll out across most major US markets next year.
Other organizations that have widened their scope to account for interactive advertising include the Media Rating Council, a non-profit US industry association established in 1963, which aims to ensure electronic measurement services that are valid, reliable and effective. It addresses the measurement of video advertising and content delivered through television, OTT and digital, including both desktop and mobile. Recently it has issued a draft of its Cross-Media Audience Measurement Standards, reflecting the need for inclusive measurement, taking into account the various media upon which viewers are consuming content.
Optimizing programming with TV audience measurement
TV service providers can utilize audience measurement data to optimize their TV programming, with a 360-view of their audience. Data of users’ interaction with content, user interest data and viewing habit information (such as usual viewing times and the average length of time spent watching television) highlights what and when people are watching. User loyalty can be evaluated, with granular figures indicating time watched through an episode and through an entire season. Viewer drop-off points indicate issues that can be addressed, which, when corrected, can lead to increased engagement.
Incorporating viewer engagement and drop-off data is critical in optimizing targeted promotions. Taking viewing statistics into consideration enables placement of ads during the portions that are most watched, before major drop-offs.
Viewer choices are also highly influenced by context. Content that appeals on a weekend may not be a relevant choice for a daily commute on the train. Other factors in choosing content include whether one is watching alone or watching with others ― an obvious example such as parents who would not choose an animated film to watch with their buddies, but do choose these films when watching with their children. Additional factors include comparing whether people are watching programs when they were originally broadcast, or preferring to binge, download and watch at their convenience, or watch re-runs. These viewing patterns can prove invaluable in scheduling and in providing custom recommendations.
TV audience measurement and device fragmentation
Devices also provide clues as to what is watched on a mobile and what is consumed in the living room. More and more time is now spent watching long-form content on smartphones. Over 70% of the time spent online is on a mobile device and in many cases the smartphone is the primary device for streaming video. This percentage is expected to grow, especially in emerging markets. Ensuring that content is mobile-friendly, or mobile-first is critical for specific audiences, and audience measurement data is a crucial component in the decision chain.
Mobile is also having an impact on ad revenue, with projected growth of 72% in spending on online video advertising. In the first half of 2018, 14% of all digital ad revenue was from digital video. Mobile ad spend had already surpassed desktop ad spend by over 60%; this figure is projected to continue to grow. The switch to mobile in-turn affects the type of ad choices. For example, on mobile, video ads are usually preferable to banner ads; however, banner ads are still a significant source of revenue.
Other formats particular to mobile include video, text messages, interactive rich media (video, audio, or other elements that encourage viewers to interact with the content) and click-to-download ads that route customers to the App Store, Google Play, or another mobile storefront page. Audience measurement data can also assist in decisions about purchases on programmatic advertising platforms.
Audience measurement clarifies niche opportunities
Niche offerings are directed to very specific audiences with identifiable tastes, such as cooking programs, travel, educational content and more. An example of a niche service that has proved successful is Britbox, with over half a million subscribers in the US, and a UK launch planned for the latter half of 2019. According to Britbox’s North America President, Soumya Sriraman: “You have to be completely audience-driven and never let them down. Netflix and Amazon are trying to be everything to everyone, but we believe that many consumers are still seeking services that cater to their passions.”
For niche subscriptions, accurate audience measurement data can offer critical insights into the type of programs watched, and the stickiness of these programs for specific audiences. Audience measurement data can be further segmented into various categories such as actors and genres, highlighting hidden opportunities for smarter content development. In addition, insights from granular data of the performance of a specific channel enables comparison of a channel to another channel in the same genre.
No discussion of audience measurement would be complete without mentioning privacy concerns; to comply with GDPR requirements, audience data collected must be anonymized and aggregated before it can be analyzed and included in any reports.
Trustworthy audience measurement data enables smarter content acquisition, marketing and advertising decisions with vital market context, by offering a complete picture of video content consumption in specific markets.
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