“Watching TV” is pretty simple from the viewer’s standpoint, but not so much anymore for advertisers. On the contrary, it has become increasingly complex with regards to audience measurement.
Several overlapping layers of complexity come into play:
In order to see how new usage habits impact our viewing behaviour, we should logically take into account all of these elements when defining and/or measuring a program or channel’s audience. Unfortunately, this is impossible to do with existing measurement methods (panels and cookies) because they split up these uses in order to obtain true – albeit partial – data.
The best example of this narrow perspective is from the United States: bandwidth usage analysis shows that Netflix, an on-demand video service available by subscription on numerous platforms, uses close to 30% of available Internet bandwidth. This percentage is clearly huge, demonstrating a significant and repeated use, much to the detriment of traditional channels. This trend extends outside of the United States as the global explosion of multi-screen usage enables people to enjoy an enriched and social viewing experience. Also, as programs are becoming events in themselves, this multi-channel and multi-social experience is occurring before, during and after the show.
Current television and web audience measurements do not allow for these overlapping phenomena to be taken into account; Netflix doesn’t even rank among the top ten online video sites as determined by Comscore, an online audience measurement institute. This change in viewing behaviour is not yet coming up in the numbers, and the average number of hours spent watching “traditional” TV still remains higher than that of online viewing. But, if we look at the same data from a different perspective – say from a generational, perceived market value, growth or advertising impact point of view – a different reality, one that has not as yet discovered its performance indicators or instruments of measure, comes to light.
As it stands, only cable and telcos have access to real information, which remains somewhat hazy for advertisers who see their advertising performance diminish with each passing month. This can’t go on forever, but really – who’s going to rock the boat?