Earlier this spring month, the Broadcast Research Council of South Africa (BRC) invited the Johannesburg media industry to hear three international speakers discuss future trends in the measurement of TV and video.
Clare O’Neil, CEO of the BRC, opened the event on a personal note by sharing that the start of spring prompts her to set down her resolutions and goals for the coming year. She briefly reminded us of the BRC’s solid achievement in transforming the distinctly broken Television Audience Measurement (TAM) panel into a fit for purpose and truly representative one, before pointing our attention firmly towards the future.
The first speaker, Jennie Beck, chief client officer of Kantar Media, underscored the importance of looking to the future with a pertinent quote from ice hockey legend Wayne Gretzsky: “A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be.”
Looking to where viewing is going to be, she predicted that while modes of content delivery will continue to evolve, so will TV sets. Larger sets with improved technology will take pride of place in the main living rooms for communal viewing, while cheaper sets could be located in other rooms. Add in every family members’ laptop, smartphone and tablet and it is clear why we can no longer be satisfied with simple television audience measurement and why we need to be looking towards total video measurement. We need to not only capture live and time shift viewing, but also VOD and OTT viewing.
Beck made the point that accurate data drives industry growth: a trusted and universally understood common currency, not only enables content evaluation and scheduling but also fuels trading. Of course, there is no one single perfect solution as to how total video is measured, but she stressed that a high quality core TAM panel forms the centre of the ecosystem, and is the “source of truth”.
Viewing patterns and measurement
The Netherlands is at the forefront of media research, being the first country to deliver daily fused TV and online ratings. (The first data was released on 3 July 2017). Beck shared the complex SKO (Stichting Kijkonderzoek) Video Data Integration Model, which integrates data from a variety of sources. Census data is sourced for linear streaming, online TV and video and online commercials; this provides the total number of times such content is accessed by the consumer, as well as the length of viewing.
An online panel is then used to provide information on user profiles and unique reach. The TAM panel provides the TV measurement. This data is then calibrated and fused to provide a platform independent currency. Interestingly, Beck showed that the data indicates that viewers watch different programmes on TV and on video. The enticingly titled, Boer Zoekt Vrouw took top position in both the TV and top video programmes list, sport and news programming featured strongly on the TV list.
In the UK, BARB (Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board) awarded the Dovetail Fusion Project to Kantar Media earlier this year. The BARB panel currently delivers viewing information, and meter solutions provide information on viewing on personal computers and tablets. In addition, census data is generated for online TV viewing, via software code embedded in TV player apps, The TV Player Report. The delivery date for the blending of this data is March 2018.
In 2013, BARB extended the time period over which time shift viewing was measured up to 28 days from transmission. Using the example of the last episode of the award winning The Night Manager, Beck showed that 47% of viewing took place live, with a further 16% of viewing occurring on the same day as live. Time shift within a week of broadcast accounted for a further 24% of viewing, while time shift between eight and 28 days after broadcast, delivered an additional 7%. On demand viewing only constituted 5% of total viewership.
Her final point was that the integration of return path data (RPD) can be very useful for the measurement of zero rated and niche channels. The experience in Pakistan, where a managed panel of 3 000 and 50 000 household RPD data has augmented a 900-person panel, shows that volatility on small channels is reduced and more granular analysis is possible. Of course RPD offers both technical and political challenges.
A ‘river’ of streaming services
Nielsen’s SVP – Product Leadership, Brian Fuhrer, provided a US perspective on measuring total audience. Affirming that both buyers and sellers want a currency that reflects the evolving ecosystem, he sketched the drivers of change: fragmented audiences due to expanding options, distribution across mobile and digital devices, new disruptive distribution platforms and viewers extending their time shift window. Researchers have responded with appropriate solutions.
Fuhrer made the point that “the more media options, the merrier the consumer”; people are connecting in more than one way and are relishing their extended options. He showed that the 18+ consumer now spends about 60% more time with electronic media than he/she did, 15 years ago. Of these 79 hours, about 40% are spent with PCs, tablets, smartphones and multimedia devices.
In a remarkably short period of time subscription streaming services “have become a river”. In 2014, 38% of the Nielsen National Panel had any SVOD; in 2017, this had risen to 59%. Netflix remained the most popular, rising from 33% in 2014 to 53% in 2017, while Amazon had surged from 11% to 31% over the same period.
Sixty two percent of TV household have digital streaming devices, internet enabled video game consoles or internet enabled smart TVs. The consumption of non linear content has surged over the past four years, and the 25 to 34-year-old demographic group now consume more non linear content than the under 25s.
Viewers have changed their time shift windows. Using the example of Good Behaviour on TNT, he demonstrated the substantial lift gained from extending the VOD audience out to 90 days. It is the younger and more affluent consumer who is likely to watch furthest away from the time of first transmission.
While the story of total audience measurement continues to unfold, Fuhrer pointed to some worthwhile learnings. A major challenge, which should not be underestimated, is the work that is needed to align programme names and genre information across platforms. He advised that content and ads should be measured separately and then put together. The duplication of audiences across devices and advertising models presented an ongoing challenge, as did achieving comparable metrics across devices.
Six basic principles
Robert Ruud, of 3M3A and the international auditor of the BRC TAM panel, shared his Scandinavian experiences. He enumerated six basic principles that need to be adhered to if total audience measurement is to be achieved, namely multiple technology, multiple panels, passive solutions, data integration, content centric monitoring and broadcaster involvement, and showed their application in Sweden.
It was his message of how quickly things can change that cam through very clearly. In one year in Norway, the claimed use of streaming rose from 46% amongst 12-19 year olds and from 29% to 52% among 40-49 year olds. Obviously Norway is very different from South Africa in terms of affluence and connectivity, but when he underlined the fact that even in Norway it had taken 3.5 years from the tender for total audience measurement to start up, it was quite galvanising.
In the discussion that followed these three enlightening speakers, it was clear that we have a good starting point with the core BRC panel. Of course, available funds will always dictate the scope of what can be done, and the reality is a phased approach will be necessary. Whilst there are certainly many learnings to be gleaned from abroad, the starting point in South Africa is to start gather the relevant census data and to define the scope of the local issues.
There is clearly much work to be done but given the BRC’s track record, there is no doubt that it will be done. The time for a new era of video measurement is underway.
Britta Reid is an independent media consultant.
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