Rewind 50 years to when Nielsen’s household panel was the only meaningful benchmark for measuring television-viewing habits.
Even then, one big argument against measuring based on percentage of audience was that the technique could easily over- or underestimate the frequency of exposure. Additionally, relying on a panel that uses age and gender demographics limits the opportunity for addressability in television.
“We make the TV world antiquated when we talk about women who are 24 to 54,” said Howard Shimmel, chief research officer for Turner Broadcasting, during a recent presentation at Simulmedia's “PeopleFront” event in New York.
In a Forrester report, "The Gross Rating Point Gets An Extreme Makeover," principal analyst Jim Nail points out that TV advertisers have historically bought against content and programming. TV buyers tried to hit the highest percentage of their target audience based on that demographic’s propensity to tune in to a specific show at a specific time.
Viewer-controlled digital video, on the other hand, enables audience-based buys at the impression level. While addressable TV generates only $200 million in ad spend to linear’s whopping $70 billion at present, the former’s share will increase as new data integrations from third-party providers round out audience-based buys.
“Panels simply fall apart when there are too many variables you have to control for,” Nail argued, referencing new devices and a growing pool of content providers. “When you start layering on video on demand and streamed, the panels get completely unwieldy. It just breaks the classic TV ratings methodology and opens [Nielsen] up to other competitors. They’re all taking very different approaches, so it’ll be a real horserace.”
Here's a rundown of some of those efforts from other companies, including both competitors and partners to Nielsen.
ComScore: ComScore is talking up Video Metrix 3.0, a de-duped video audience measurement tool for smartphones, tablets, over-the-top (OTT) devices and desktop. Video Metrix falls under the Total Video product line, which will also include a TV/digital-agnostic planning tool, expected at the end of the year. “ComScore Total Video seems like a very solid product, but they have a lot to prove to the industry to be able to transfer that to TV,” Nail said. And comScore says it has plans to develop an in-home solution designed to pipe data from OTT devices and other forms of content at the household level. ComScore: not just digital.
Rentrak: Rentrak, which hitches its data wagon to 60 million set-top boxes, could give Nielsen a run for its money – particularly in local TV markets, according to Nail. Local TV advertisers typically prioritize local market expansion by looking at metrics like the brand-development index (BDI) and category-development index (CDI). Rentrak, with its arsenal of grocery, ticket-stub and automotive sales data, “allows you to rank shows by their BDI and CDI,” he said. “The work they’re doing with various data providers to not only look at shows by age and gender demos, but purchase behavior and product ownership, is just a natural because that’s how local TV buyers today already think.”
Simulmedia: Simulmedia licenses anonymous set-top box data from a plethora of sources – cable and satellite companies, telcos, even TiVo – to drill down on 125,000 TV spots that air each day. The company developed a data-activation platform called Simulmedia Audience Network to help drive incremental ad dollars to a number of multisystem operators and a majority of the top cable networks. Last month, Nielsen struck a deal to sync its people meter with Simulmedia’s set-top box data in the name of long-tail network measurement; the goal of the partnership was to pave the way for smaller or more niche cable networks to unlock and package their inventory in similar ways to the premium network guys.
TiVo Research and Analytics: As evidenced by Nielsen and Simulmedia, partnership is all the rage in developing GRP 2.0, and TRA is no different. The company signed a contract for a “single-source” panel with comScore last year on behalf of advertiser Procter & Gamble. The duo anonymously matched household media exposure on banner, video and TV ad campaigns with purchase data, comScore CEO Serge Matta told AdExchanger in a recent interview. “We now want to take that same approach we did with P&G and not only scale it in terms of offline/online ad effectiveness, but add the viewability and nonhuman traffic detection as part of it,” he said. TiVo’s differentiator, per the Forrester report, is TRA Cross Media Measurement, 100,000 households’ worth of CPG purchase data stacked up against cross-platform media exposures, underscoring its partnership with comScore. It’s worth noting that TRA also licenses Nielsen rating data in addition to its own cable and set-top box data service, TRAnalytics.
Twitter: Twitter and linear TV? You don’t say! Though the blue bird’s been busy snapping up a boatload of second-screen apps, including Bluefin Labs, Trendrr and SnappyTV, last fall it also teamed up with Nielsen on the release of Twitter TV Ratings, a means to gauge the digital reach of television viewership based on Twitter buzz. Twitter separately developed TV reach extension tool Amplify as a way to connect broadcast media and buy-side partners off-air.
Facebook: Just as Nielsen teamed up with Twitter to track the connection between second-screen social apps and TV tune-in habits, so too has Facebook. The effort was launched initially last fall, when Nielsen revealed it would calibrate its national people meter panel using anonymously matched demo-based information via data partners like Facebook. At the root of the collaboration was the desire for more insight into mobile TV viewing patterns, though Facebook and Nielsen partnered on BrandLift research as early as 2009. A number of Nielsen digital GRP equivalents – online campaign ratings and cross-platform campaign ratings among them – have earned partner miles from Facebook.
Nielsen: Steve Hasker, global president of Nielsen, said the company is making a concerted effort to move beyond age and gender demos. But since Nielsen is thought of as advertising currency, Hasker said during Simulmedia’s PeopleFront event, "We cannot wake up one day and just change the metric overnight." In addition to Nielsen's partnerships with the likes of Twitter, Facebook and Simulmedia, Hasker spoke about investments Nielsen is making in additional data sets as advertisers are simultaneously blending customer segments and first-party data sets with data sets from Nielsen and others via their data-management platforms, Hasker said.
Symphony Advanced Media: Symphony Advanced Media is a startup in media measurement land, but the company claims it has developed the largest mobile panel out there. According to Forrester, that “mobile device meter technology passively monitors cross-media content and advertising, leveraging automatic content recognition to track TV.” Rewind back to the whole partner thing. Symphony Advanced Media teamed up with Twitter to see how likely viewers were to tune in to ads while they’re tweeting and using social media.
AT&T's "TV Blueprint:" As a carrier, AT&T can hold its own against some of the various licensers of set-top box data out there, since it taps its own data from over 16 million set-top boxes in six million U-verse households. Now, AT&T's layering in anonymized mobile subscriber data from some 70 million households and allows marketers to target 50 million households through multichannel video programming distribution network partnerships like Cox Communications. In short, marry mobile data with set-top box data and MVPD audiences, and TV Blueprint claims it can pinpoint the most optimal days, times and networks to place advertiser spots via a proprietary algorithm.
"Misc." GRP: In addition to the companies mentioned above, a multitude of digital ads vendors have begun to support online GRP equivalent measurements. TubeMogul, for instance, developed something it dubs BrandPoint, which analyzes Nielsen-verified reports in real time and lets advertisers use one common metric to compare the reach and frequency of TV and digital campaigns. Sizmek, too, overlays GRP-based metrics from Nielsen online campaign ratings and comScore vCE in Sizmek MDX, its ad-management platform.