TV Can No Longer Avoid The Viewability Challenge

by Dan Schiffman

The echoing three-count drumbeat of transparency, fraud and viewability has amplified the din of the digital marketing cacophony. The challenges these issues present have proven so strong that some agency holding companies are voluntarily superseding industry minimums by setting higher thresholds for quality delivery than what the standards bodies recommend. Blame it on a hungry set of publishers, ad tech vendors, and anxious marketers, but the high level of noise is finally getting quieted by folks like Marc Pritchard at P&G who are leading the charge to make the digital landscape accountable for media placement.

TV has fallen to the number two slot in media spend — having made it over 75 years without having to own up to who actually saw an ad displayed on their television set. The famous John Wanamaker quote – “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half” – was born for the print world and easily translated to TV. While the digital ecosystem can very accurately understand who specifically saw an ad and for how long, the more mainstream impression-based media placements got a hall pass from having to tie an impression to a consumer, and a consumer to a sale.

Eyeballs, Meet Impressions

That time is changing though. If digital has suffered the recent wrath of detailed measurement, that approach is starting to make TV look woefully unprepared for modern marketing management. The multi-front war – for attribution, targeting, and personalisation – weighs against the current TV ad measurement approach. Layer in OTT, addressable TV, and connected TV data, and the issue shifts from offence to defense for advertisers interested in measuring which messages resonate.

There are two dynamics at play here. The first is the knowledge of whether the TV was being watched when it was “on.” For any of you with kids, dogs, and multiple TV sets, there are many times that the TV is on but no one is watching (never mind the many times that the TV screen is off but the set top box does not know that). The second is, assuming their is a beating heart in the room, who that person is and are they using the TV for background noise.

The way it works today, viewability on TV is measured by completion. If the program or ad shows in total based on set-top box or Smart TV data, the assumption is that it was seen in its entirety. But think about the number of screens in your house, and which one you or your family are looking at when the commercials come on. If you are actively watching TV, chances are good that you are also actively changing the channel. If you are not paying attention, those ads are probably playing out entirely. So the correlation between 100 percent airplay and 100 percent viewability is not what it seems, and may actually be the reverse.

The important part of the above chart is the delta between standard GRPs and those weighted by attention. This measurement of viewability is powerful in that it answers the question of not just who tuned in, but who is actually watching the show. For broadcasters and pay TV operators, this could translate into better ad prices. For advertisers, it’s a better media plan and likely better link to brand and sales lift.

Ratings Still Matter

Let’s be clear. Ratings are a critical measure of interest, audience reach, and value of the spot placement. But as Dave Morgan of Simulmedia has consistently pointed out, ratings and audience sizes are decreasing as the volume of content is fragmented across broadcast, cable and over-the- top viewing channels. So a show with a lower rating and a high attention score may actually drive more impact than a highly rated show that is on in the background. The two measures need to work together to prove the viewable impact of a TV ad.

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TiVo: 20% of time spent consuming video

According to findings from entertainment technology and audience insights specialist TiVo, the average global viewer spends 4.4 hours each day watching video. Coupled with the global average of 28 minutes spent each day searching for content to watch, that is nearly five hours per day of video engagement, which amounts to 20 per cent of daily life, building à la carte entertainment experiences that work best for them.

The company’s annual multi-country Global Consumer Trends study explores viewer engagement with the video content, services and devices that shape the evolving consumer entertainment experience.

The study also found that about 90 per cent of households are currently paying for traditional pay-TV service. However, more than 60 per cent are also subscribing to streaming video services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu.

In the US, more than 50 per cent of pay-TV subscribers have been with their service for four years or more. Subscribers with the shortest tenure are also the least dependable: more than 10 per cent of those who have subscribed to cable for a year or less say they’re very likely to cut the cord in the next six months.

It’s not just the amount of content that has exploded in the last few years. People now have more screens than ever at their disposal to watch their favourite videos. Nowhere is this truer than in Latin America, where 50 per cent of all viewing now takes place on a digital device other than a television set, according to the study. By way of comparison, viewers in the US say that more than 75 per cent of their video consumption still occurs on their TV.

“Consumers today are acting as their own aggregator, piecing together what they need from a variety of video service and device combinations to suit their individual needs,” said Paul Stathacopoulos, vice president, Strategy, TiVo. “Success in this new environment will not be about a single content source monopolising the living room, instead it will be about adapting the business model to deliver value, integrated services and personalisation to meet the evolving consumer needs.”

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TV: Riding The Tide Of Emotions

VAB has often demonstrated the undeniable ability of TV to drive business growth, but in this report they explore the emotional impact of television. Television programming satisfies our human emotional need for connection; a connection not only to the characters and stories that resonate with us, but also the desire for a shared experience with our community.

download the report here

The emotional bond many of us feel with Television programming is made clear by…

• The amount of time & attention we give it – 5+ hrs a day, double what we spend eating, drinking,
shopping and viewing Facebook, combined

• Our insatiability for more content from the shows we love – 52 Million Facebook Followers of the top 5
shows alone

• The urgency we feel to rejoin the stories we loyally follow – 88% of primetime is viewed live
Emotionally compelling, character-driven premium programming fosters an ideal environment to showcase an advertisers
message. But why is this important for advertisers?

• 90% of human decision making is dictated by emotion

• 85% of consumer purchases are driven by emotional attachment

• And 58% of consumers believe TV is where they are most likely to find advertising that makes them feel
emotional (a figure 6x greater than that of Social media)

15.8 Million People Watched the First Episode of Stranger Things

Nielsen released its first batch of viewership data about Netflix.

The never-before-publicly-shared data shows that the first episode of Stranger Things 2 drew a bigger audience than the Season 8 premiere of The Walking Dead, cable TV’s most-watched show a week earlier.

According to Nielsen’s SVOD Content Ratings, 15.8 million U.S. viewers watched the first episode of Stranger Things 2 over the first three days, including a whopping 11 million people in the 18-49 demo.

That puts it just above the live-plus-3 numbers for The Walking Dead Season 8 premiere on Oct. 22, which drew 15 million total viewers and 8.8 million in the demo.

The Stranger Things 2 demo viewership is also ahead of all broadcast entertainment programs in live-plus-3 (This Is Us had 5.8 million). As for total viewers, Stranger Things 2 is behind only The Big Bang Theory (16.5 million) and The Good Doctor (16.1 million), and tied with NCIS (15.8 million).

Stranger Things 2— which showcases dozens of brands in all of their ’80s glory—debuted last Friday. Over those first three days, every episode averaged more than 4 million total viewers, and more than 3 million in the demo, according to Nielsen. On Friday, 361,000 people watched all nine episodes of Stranger Things 2.

The episode breakdown over the first three days was as follows:

Chapter One: 15.8 million total viewers, 11 million 18-49
Chapter Two: 13.7 million total viewers, 9.6 million 18-49
Chapter Three: 11.6 million total viewers, 8.1 million 18-49
Chapter Four: 9.3 million total viewers, 6.6 million 18-49
Chapter Five: 8 million total viewers, 5.6 million 18-49
Chapter Six: 6.4 million total viewers, 4.5 million 18-49
Chapter Seven: 5.3 million total viewers, 3.7 million 18-49
Chapter Eight: 4.9 million total viewers, 3.4 million 18-49
Chapter Nine: 4.6 million total viewers, 3.2 million 18-49

During those first three days, the average Stranger Things 2 viewer watched 2.9 episodes of the new season.

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Nielsen Will Publicly Share Ratings for Netflix Shows

Ever since House of Cards premiered in 2013 on Netflix, the TV industry has been frustrated by the streaming service’s refusal to share ratings data for its content. Netflix ratings have become the industry’s white whale, with many companies attempting to nail down the company’s metrics, but seemingly failing to do so in any precise way.

That is finally about to change, as Nielsen says it will now be measuring, and publicly sharing, Netflix ratings data, while allowing networks and studios to finally get a sense of how the audience for the streaming service’s shows like Stranger Things, Orange Is the New Black, 13 Reasons Why and American Vandal measures up to broadcast and cable series. The company has launched SVOD Content Ratings, a syndicated service that measures content from subscription video on demand services, though out of the gate, the offering will only provide ratings for Netflix content.

Nielsen’s SVOD Content Ratings will provide clients the same ratings and demo data for Netflix’s original shows, movies and acquired content that they receive for linear TV programs, broken out both by season and by episode.

Initially, the offering will only provide ratings for Netflix content, and will be restricted to programs viewed on connected TV devices like Roku, Apple TV, video game consoles and smart TVs (which accounts for around 75 percent of SVOD viewing).

SVOD Content Ratings, which Nielsen has been testing with select clients since August, relies on data from Nielsen’s national panel, which is comprised of 44,000 households and more than 100,000 people.

Eight TV networks and production studios, including A&E, Disney-ABC, NBCUniversal, Lionsgate and Warner Bros., have already subscribed to the new service, and the company said more will be added in the coming days and weeks. “We’ve got a number of clients in various stages of subscription and evaluation,” said Brian Fuhrer, Nielsen’s svp of product leadership.

Nielsen has been measuring streaming content since 2014, but previously, studios working with Nielsen only had access to metrics about their own shows. They were also only permitted to use the data internally, which meant they couldn’t discuss it with the press or use it in negotiations. Now they’ll have access to ratings for all content measured by Nielsen.

“The question I always get is, ‘How did my program do?’ And the second question is, ‘How did it do in comparison with everybody else?’ That second key question is what we’re trying to answer,” said Fuhrer.

While the ratings metrics will be similar to what Nielsen collects for linear shows, it will take as much as three or three weeks for the data to be processed. “It’s definitely not an overnight process,” said Furher of the ratings, which will be made available each week. He added that Nielsen’s clients have said they would rather the data be accurate and complete rather than rushed, “so that’s what we’re working through to be able to do that.”

Initially, the SVOD Content Ratings will measure viewing via connected TV devices only, and the company will analyze its data approximate to how much viewing is done on mobile devices.

Hulu and other providers consistently say that around 75 percent of their viewing occurs via a connected TV device. “I wouldn’t be surprised if that was a low estimate, particularly for the high-value content,” said Fuhrer. “People like to watch content on a big, high-quality screen.”

In its infancy, SVOD Content Ratings won’t be measuring every single piece of content on Netflix. “We’re continuing to build our library, so we don’t have a comprehensive library of everything on Netflix right now,” Fuhrer said. “What we’re focusing on right now is the most-viewed assets out there. It breaks down into three categories: movies, Netflix originals and back seasons of TV.”

Netflix, which has always refused to share any ratings metrics, has tried to impede Nielsen’s measurement efforts by stripping out the company’s digital watermarks from its content.

For its SVOD Content Ratings, Nielsen captures a content’s video signature, compares that against a high-quality video signature that it holds for each program and loads that information into its crediting engines to determine viewing among its national panel.

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Nielsen to Credit Video Views on Facebook, Hulu and YouTube

Broadening its visibility into the world of digital video and OTT distribution, Nielsen said it will begin crediting video content distributed on Facebook, Hulu and YouTube.

That added capability, delivered via Nielsen’s Digital Content Ratings, will enable TV and digital publisher clients to capture viewing of their content within their reported audience numbers, Nielsen said, noting that this “consistent and transparent view ensures a level playing field” because it provides access to the same information across both publishers and platforms.
While enabled publisher clients will be able to receive credit for video offered on Facebook and YouTube in Nielsen’s Digital Content Ratings, Hulu will be providing “select media partners” with credit for current series content that it distributes, Nielsen said.

That expansion follows Nielsen’s announcement last month that “eligible TV viewing” from YouTube TV and Hulu’s new live TV service would be included in its Digital in TV Ratings.

“The inclusion of video content distributed on Facebook, Hulu and YouTube in Nielsen Digital Content Ratings is a major accomplishment and part of our ongoing commitment to providing the industry with independent, comprehensive measurement of the evolving consumer landscape,” Megan Clarken, president of product leadership at Nielsen, said in a statement. “Through capturing this audience, Nielsen is providing publishers, agencies and advertisers with a better picture of today’s media consumption, with comparable metrics.”

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