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This New Measurement Tool Shows Millennials Are Watching as Much TV as Ever

Can it solve TV's digital dilemma?

New series Blindspot (l.) and Minority Report could get viewer lift from VideoPulse NBC, Fox

As the new TV season kicks off with 22 new shows debuting over the next month, networks and advertisers will begin to make sense of which series are clicking with viewers and which ones will get axed. But in the current TV marketplace of fragmented viewership, networks have been complaining that Nielsen no longer provides an adequate measurement of who's really watching their shows.

"We're not getting measured accurately and were losing a lot of people," said Alan Wurtzel, NBCUniversal's president of research and media development, during an industry meeting this morning. Wurtzel estimated that 15 percent to 35 percent of viewers who watch on other platforms are not getting counted. "And it's only growing," he added.

VideoPulse, which was unveiled this morning, is a new TV multiplatform measurement tool from Symphony Advanced Media looking to finally crack that code. It's a cloud-based service that captures live media usage by individuals across OTT, VOD, Web, mobile, gaming devices, DVR and linear TV. Data comes from the 15,000 users who have already signed up to be tracked; Symphony hopes to have 50,000 within the next year.

The data VideoPulse has already gathered goes against the idea that millennials aren't watching TV—they just aren't watching the way previous generations did. According to traditional TV measurement from Nielsen, millennial viewing has dropped 30 percent over the past five years. But VideoPulse found that 25 percent of viewing among millennials is on DVRs and over-the-top services and happens outside the Live+7 window, not measured by Nielsen.

"There has been a significant void in understanding how consumers are using nontraditional media platforms, but innovation has finally arrived in the media-measurement space," said Charles Buchwalter, president and CEO of Symphony Advanced Media. Buchwalter says the product will "track the cross-media, cross-platform behavior of consumers in the fastest growing mode of TV and video viewing, allowing the market to extend beyond the current industry-accepted norm of Live viewing plus seven days ratings."

The product—which is available immediately for advertisers, agencies and media companies—is already undergoing beta testing by NBC, Viacom, Warner Bros. Media Research and A+E Networks.

"Our industry has been disadvantaged by legacy-measurement approaches that have failed to evolve with consumers' increasing use of media platforms," said Liz Huszarik, evp, Warner Bros. Media Research & Insights. "We are hopeful that by working with Symphony Advanced Media's VideoPulse that we can capture an accurate picture of consumers' total TV/video usage across platforms and devices with a transparency that's been missing from other vendors."

VideoPulse also includes data from streaming services—most notably Netflix—which so far hasn't been divulged. Viewers who watched Orange Is the New Black during its Season 3 premiere week in June spent 20 percent of their overall viewing time watching the Netflix drama, leading to a reduction in traditional TV viewing.

"We don't really have the ability to measure the way the consumer is viewing video content," Wurtzel said. "If you simply look at the ratings, which has been the yardstick for years, you would say something's the matter."

Imprecise measurement can lead to a loss of advertising revenue, and Colleen Fahey-Rush, evp and chief research officer for Viacom Media Networks, calls the recent hit media stocks have taken on Wall Street "completely out of whack." Fahey-Rush is hopeful the new service can prove to advertisers that people are still watching, arguing that no multiplatform measurement can work without the agencies and clients getting on board. "That's what I think is the hardest part from a lot of measurement companies," said Fahey-Rush.

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