Oct 3, 2015

Invisible No More

Originally published at TDG Research on October 1, 2015

Two seemingly related events shook the world of viewer measurement this week, giving Advertising Week attendees something to talk about other than adblocking. First, Rentrak and comScore are merging to create a potential Nielsen-slaying service capable of tracking viewers across multiple platforms.

The second announcement, which came right on the heels of the first, was made by Nielsen: the ratings provider has partnered with CBS, offering the network first dibs on their “Total Audience” ratings. This arrangement will combine the ratings from CBS’s All Access OTT app with linear TV ratings.

Both developments certainly shake up the way TV viewing is measured. But the question remains, who will win?

We think Nielsen will continue to dominate the ratings game, but now RentScore (comTrak?) has the ability to carve out a profitable niche as well.

Why We Need OTT Ratings
As we noted in Waiting For Nielsen last spring, the one thing that’s been holding up the industry’s wholesale adoption of TV Everywhere has been the absence of a universally agreed upon measurement standard for OTT TV viewing. Without that, networks don’t get credit for viewers who are watching their shows on streaming services or OTT apps. This means they can’t charge ad buyers for those viewers (which is why the industry has been calling for a method of calculating OTT Views in the first place).

Nielsen has been promising a solution for some time now, partnering with Adobe back in October 2014. Since then, the industry has been waiting… and waiting… and waiting… This is why the comScore/Rentrak announcement this week seemingly comes at a very appropriate time, just as many in the industry are starting to give up hope that Nielsen will ever come through.

Fortunately there’s room for both players to claim a victory. Here’s how:

C7 or C28?
The Total Audience rating that Nielsen is providing for CBS only looks at the first seven days after a show has aired. While that should cover a good-sized chunk of the audience, it does leave a gap: viewers who watch that show after that seven day window has passed. That’s a golden opportunity for comScore/Rentrak, as they count views as far as 28 days out across all manner of devices. [UPDATE: I have been informed by Nielsen that they can indeed count views to "C+infinity", it's just that no one has asked them/is paying them to do so.)

Those later viewers may be very important, as recent research from Freewheel shows that 64% of OTT TV ads were viewed 8 days or more after the show first aired. That’s an important audience segment, and if Nielsen won’t count them, networks and advertisers will indeed come to comScore/Rentrak for results that deliver a more complete picture of the audience.

TVE Unleashed
Once a universally accepted ratings system is in place, the TV networks and other content rights holders will abandon their objections to TV Everywhere. So long as the viewers are counted and they are getting paid for them, out of home will be the same to them as in home and in home OTT will be the same as linear TV.

Viewers will benefit too, as all the TV they watch will be as painless and easy to use as Netflix, allowing them to move seamlessly from device to device without having to worry about restrictions. At which point we will see the dawning of the Golden Age of Measurement.

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