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Cross-Platform TV Measurement, the Holy Grail of Local TV

April 4th, 2018   ||    by John R. Osborn   ||    No Comments

Cross-platform TV measurement is something of a holy grail for local television, but it’s well-buried beneath the shifting sands of new technologies, changing TV-viewing habits, and big-data platforms.

The Coalition for Innovative Media Measurement (CIMM) recently released a white paper, “Investigating the Industry Opportunity for Standardized TV/Video Ad Impressions,” helpful for its buy-side/sell-side snapshot of the grail pursuit.

Linear TV Measurement

TV program ratings, traditional television’s standard for marketplace currency, stood strong for well over half a century. The GRP currency is measured as an opportunity to expose an ad to a view of the measured program (as surrogate for viewing the ad) through survey- or meter-gathered samples organized into broad age/gender demographics (e.g. A25-54).

The big advantage of GRPs in media planning/buying has been in understanding reach, frequency, and frequency distributions, mostly within the television vehicle itself.

Digital Video Measurement

Digital video’s new measurement options are rapidly finding their way into buyers’ toolkits. Digital video ad buyers use impressions as the currency, measured as viewer-by-viewer, census-based capture of views and time spent before a screen where the ad is shown, in real-time.

Digital measurements can follow ads across distribution channels from online and mobile to OTT, SVOD, and even digital OOH.

For digital video buyers, the explosion of digital data now allows use of descriptive, predictive, and prescriptive analytics through a plethora of ad-tech options:

  • Data management platforms (DMPs)
  • Supply-side platforms (SSPs)
  • Demand-side platforms (DSPs)
  • Exchange platforms
  • Marketing- and media-mix optimization platforms
  • Analytics platforms
  • Traditional TV research companies (Nielsen, ComScore)
  • TV network data-targeted offerings
  • Ad-measurement verification companies
  • Attribution methodologies, software, and platforms

Some of these are offered as SaaS products, managed services, consulting services, or any combination thereof, and include players traditionally outside the ad ecosystem, like IBM, Accenture, and Oracle.

Can a Consensus Be Reached?

A recent MediaPost opinion piece says it boldly: “Total Video Ratings: NOT the Solution for Cross-Screen Measurement.” Five years ago, TVR was its own holy grail for TV buyers and sellers. It then became TCR (Total Content Ratings), and today, surrogate program ratings just don’t compete well with digital user behavioral data.

With so many options for cross-platform TV measurement standards, stakeholders are battling out agreements on guidelines, each negotiating for its own interests. Fortunately, industry groups like the ARF, MRC, IAB, CIMM, ANA, and TVB, representing multiple sides of the industry, are involved in organizing and evaluating the overall shift.

What Now?

It’s clear that with the challenges data technologies and distribution methods present today, local stations and buyers need to:

  • Invest and partner in the development and use of ATSC 3.0, which will allow broadcast to blend with Internet protocols for two-way communication and direct access to user data.
  • Get directly involved in the cross-platform TV measurement debate and convergence process through industry groups/associations.
  • Ensure upgrades to buying and selling platforms continue to expand new pipes and connections for gathering and applying first-, second-, and third-party data. (In context, the local TV industry has used Nielsen third-party data for most of its lifespan.)

Once employed, cross-platform TV measurement standards likely won’t remain in place as TV ratings did for 60-plus years. Technology, data, and distribution platforms change too rapidly. But with advances in machine learning, the Internet of Things, and artificial intelligence, an evolutionary rather than fixed standard will be manageable. The holy grail will be a dynamic—rather than static—achievement.

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