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December 15, 2020

The Future Of Cross-Platform Measurement

Nielsen recently announced plans for “Nielsen One,” which, in their words, is “…embracing a “ONE” mindset to modernize its panels, platforms and products to create a single, cross-media currency, so you’re able to buy and sell across linear and digital platforms seamlessly.” We understand why Nielsen is going in this direction, particularly as cross-media measurement has always been an elusive goal for research companies, but we wonder how this will actually be achieved. While we do not yet have the details, what will probably happen is that Nielsen will be producing individual commercial or, more likely, commercial minute "audience" estimates for digital platforms, which people will think are comparable with its TV measurements. The latter are, of course highly inflationary as they assume that everyone who indicated that they were "watching" the show actually "viewed" every second of content, including the commercials. This is not the case. As a result, an advertiser who thinks s/he bought 100 GRPs per week, actually gets about 40-50 GRPs where somebody actually stayed in the room and at least looked at the screen for a few seconds as the commercial played out. A similar assumption will, no doubt, be used for digital "ad exposure," thereby creating even more phantom audiences for advertisers to pay for. What's needed is an ongoing eyes-on-screen monitoring system that provides adjustment factors so the agencies can reduce the inflated device usage stats to more meaningful levels.

It might be impractical to build a panel of such a size that it can measure and report eyes-on-screen data reliably for every individual telecast and every commercial break; however, it is possible to run a parallel panel of reasonable size that creates and periodically updates normative findings or "raw audience" adjustment factors that account for key variables. These would be certain sex/age groups (essentially young, middle aged and old), as well as program type, daypart, commercial length and in-break ad clutter. For each commercial "exposure" situation there would be only six or seven variables with the option to focus on only one or two if desired. The findings would be available as general adjustments, not made specifically per telecast and commercial. It would be challenging to work out, but there wouldn’t be the problem of carving up the audience into hundreds of unstable cells. That would be overkill and would not materially alter the ultimate interpretation of the results. With regard to other matters, the eyes-on-screen panel would also identify each program and commercial that appeared on the screen and could be used to determine the eyes-on reach and frequency patterns of most campaigns in aggregate as opposed to exposure-by-exposure detail. That would, indeed, be a huge step forward.

There are so many potential uses over and above the numbers grinding that characterizes time buying. Why not plan for a really big improvement at the outset? It's not a question of feasibility—it's a question of understanding the value of all of the information that can be generated. Why think small?

Such thoughts strike terror in the hearts of media time and space sellers, and perhaps Nielsen itself, but consider the possibilities if advertiser CMOs woke up and paid attention to what is really going on. Once they realize that the reach and frequencies that their plans have constructed are vastly overstated, they may decide to spend more on media to correct the underdelivery. It’s all food for thought, and we look forward to hearing more as details emerge.

Attack Of The “Undead” Medium!

Just how many times can the death of TV (and its ads) be announced? The latest, per Mediapost  (“The Death Of TV Ads,” 12/4/20), announced that TV ads officially died in 2014, which was the last year that TV profits increased, at least according to the analysis.

What can we say, except that we have a pretty lively “dead” medium kicking around. The problem with analyses like this is that they focus on linear TV. We all know that "TV" is not just "linear TV" anymore. Now, it includes, OTT, SVOD, AVOD, TV network, cable channel and station websites, and digital video venues such as YouTube. In addition, new ways of buying "linear TV" are finally surmounting some major difficulties and are set for expansion, addressable TV being the main one. As for business plans, it should be clear that the major TV programmers are moving aggressively into the streaming space and bringing with them huge amounts of valuable fare whose costs are largely amortized by "linear TV" ad dollars.

Most futurists—including ourselves at Media Dynamics, Inc.—expect that "pay TV" will still have about 50-60 million subscribers by 2025; this base, coupled with about 15-18% of the country that will be getting over-the-air reception from broadcast TV, will continue to provide a substantial revenue base to support TV's expanding SVOD/AVOD ventures. So, by 2025, a typical TV network will be earning ad incomes from its reduced but still viable linear TV base, plus its AVOD services and digital ad sales via its websites. In addition, the same TV networks will still garner reduced but significant retransmission fees, while it also collects SVOD/AVOD subscription fees. Last but not least, the TV networks will continue to share in the syndication profits of many of the prime time shows it launches on its linear TV or SVOD/AVOD platforms. That's a lot of income sources, a far cry from the situation in the 1980s when the networks were 100% dependent on ad revenue. So TV is hardly dead and, along with their Hollywood partners, networks are making exactly the kinds of moves (albeit somewhat belatedly) that will ensure future business success, provided they execute their plans intelligently and are flexible to the changes of this ever-evolving medium. Ultimately, this means that advertisers will still have plenty of eyeballs to buy for their ad campaigns, just not exclusively "linear TV" eyeballs.


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