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An alarm clock sits on a wooden table with a blurred background: time-shifted TV ratings

Time-Shifted TV Ratings: Why Now Is the Time

March 2nd, 2018   ||    by Susan Kuchinskas

It’s time to take another look at time-shifted TV ratings.

Nielsen’s most recent total audience report shows that viewership of traditional television is down across all age segments, reported Broadcast & Cable in April 2017. Viewing has instead moved to time-shifted TV channels, including DVR playback, video-on-demand (VOD) services, and streaming services, according to the Los Angeles Times.

We need time-shifted TV ratings to match this change in viewing behavior—particularly at the local level. After all, the majority of national ad deals are now based on audiences who saw a commercial within three days of the linear broadcast (i.e., C3 ratings).

Stuck in Live-Only Mode

Local TV stations are seeing similar shifts in viewing patterns, and the smart ones are already adjusting by monitoring how the different time-shifting technologies affect ad distribution—and by demanding shares of revenue from VOD and streaming video-on-demand (SVOD) services.

However, the local television ratings system is stuck in live-only mode. The Television Bureau of Advertising (TVB) and the American Association of Advertising Agencies (4As) both say it’s time for a change to time-shifted TV ratings.

As MediaPost reported in January 2018, when TVB analyzed Nielsen NPOWER data, it found that live TV viewing plus one extra day (L1) of time-shifted viewing indexed similarly to the C7 national rating. Therefore, the two organizations recommended media buyers include the L1 time-shifted TV ratings for local television. Nielsen said it “supported” that view.

But will it support time-shifted TV ratings by providing a more realistic measurement?

In January 2018, Nielsen recently included the audience measurement provided by Instagram in its social content ratings platform, which also includes Facebook and Twitter. The service measures organic and owned social TV activity. It’s also tracking Netflix audiences, according to Tech Crunch, with plans to add Hulu and Amazon Prime in 2018. This shows Nielsen is working to address market changes.

Nielsen: Not the Only Answer

But it’s not as simple as launching another ratings system. As the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) pointed out in its 2017 video landscape report, there’s a lack of consensus on metrics, which presents a barrier for advertisers.

“The industry has yet to create a standardized cross-media, cross-platform currency to measure unduplicated cross-screen video audiences in totality,” wrote the IAB.

A report by the Coalition for Innovative Media Measurement (CIMM) investigated the potential for such a metric. While satisfaction with the current TV ratings system is low, two of the biggest barriers are inertia and a lack of consensus about what the metrics should be.

But programmatic TV ad-buying platforms could be one part of the solution—and they’re part of BIA/Kelsey’s forecast of a $37 billion local video ad market by 2022, according to TV News Check.

Programmatic TV is part of a constellation of technologies that BIA/Kelsey calls “advanced TV.” Other “advanced TV” technologies are:

  • Automated TV
  • Addressable TV
  • Over-the-top (OTT)
  • Smart TV
  • Connected TV
  • ATSC 3.0

All of these technologies provide true measurements of individual ad impressions served. One key point from BIA/Kelsey’s report, Advanced TV: Executive Views on Industry Progress & New Directions, is that new, automated workflows are essential to the success of local video advertising.

Programmatic TV can offer solid data that could be used in any unified measurement system that included time-shifted TV ratings. As CIMM noted, “The devil is in the details.”

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