Networks have been eager to conduct research on cross-platform consumption of major sports events, be it ESPN for the World Cup or NBCUniversal for the Olympics. Turner has been no different with March Madness, which it now offers in partnership with CBS.
The data can be intuitive. Take the study Turner did for the 2011 NCAA Tournament on multi-platform viewership across TV, online and mobile among those ages 18-plus. Of the individuals watching just on TV, unsurprisingly 77% were 35-plus. Of those using three screens, it was an exact flip: 77% were ages 18 to 34.
Once in a while, there are some nuggets standing out that can be indicative of a wider trend -- notably that online viewing looks to be broadening. Of those watching the 2011 tournament only online, about half were in the 18-to-34 age group and half were ages 35-plus.
NCAA games air on TNT, TBS and truTV. Turner’s study of the 2012 tournament is being put together. Yet, the company wants to make three-screen research a regular part of its output. Its focus is on CNN as the venue.
Enter CNN Everywhere, an initiative that will use the same sources as the March Madness work. TV viewing will be gleaned from Nielsen and Arbitron (which tracks out-of-home viewing). Online consumption will be produced from a melding of Omniture and Nielsen data, while mobile will come from a Bango-Nielsen combination.
Listen to Jack Wakshlag, the Chief Research Officer at Turner, speak and it becomes clear there is an urgency to produce multi-screen data regularly. He made it clear Monday at an Advertising Research Foundation (ARF) conference a network brand needs actionable -- not academic -- data it can use to begin generating revenues.
“We want advertisers to look at our business across platforms,” he said in an interview.
(A cynic might say with CNN’s ratings doing so poorly, it would be beneficial if the news network were viewed on Madison Avenue more as a brand with multiple touch points than TV-only.)
Networks like CNN, its Turner brethren and ESPN are moving full-speed into TV Everywhere distribution, where viewers can watch the networks live online if they prove they pay for TV service. Yet, if the networks are promoting that opporunity heavily, it obviously makes sense to move just as aggressively into cross-platform measurement.
The trouble is CNN may be using Bango and Arbitron out-of-home data in developing its metrics and other networks may be taking other paths. Wakshlag and others might agree an industry consensus would be preferable, but believe they can’t wait.
“We have to be willing to innovate and see how the market responds,” Wakshlag said.
Which offers a paradox. If Madison Avenue wants agreement, the more individual networks concoct their own data sets – NBCU will rely heavily on Google during the coming Olympics -- the further off that could become.
Nonetheless, efforts continue towards some unification, notably from the Coalition for Innovative Media Measurement (CIMM), which is releasing two feasibility studies on cross–platform measurement at the ARF event – one from Arbitron and a second from comScore. (CIMM members include networks, advertisers and agencies.)
Looking to follow video content from networks across screens, the Arbitron study relied on 500 individuals who have been part of its portable people meter (PPM) panel, ages 18-plus. It was conducted from November 2011-January 2012. The PPM tracked TV and some online video. Dedicated meters followed PC and mobile consumption. (Tablets and iPhones were not used.) Video could appear on sites run by networks or others with their content such as Hulu, Netflix or YouTube.
Among the conclusions: 91.7% of participants accessed content on the TV and at least one other screen; 35.5% used all three screens; and 48.9% accessed video on a combination of just the TV and PC.
Other data: 35% visited sites with network-related content at work. If the thesis is viewers prefer snackable content at work, the data doesn’t necessarily bear that out: participants on average spent more time with Hulu on the job than off it.
Much of the future of cross-platform measurement will focus on simultaneous use of the TV and a second screen. Arbitron found 65% of network viewers accessed a related or other video site at the same time.
As Arbitron relied on the PPM (which drives much of its core radio measurement business) for TV measurement, comScore used set-top-box (STB) data. ComScore assembled a panel of 10,000 consumers in 22 states, where 10% were “active mobile Internet users.” Its research was conducted over a five-week period last fall.
The data found that on average 17% of consumers accessed a network’s content on at least two platforms (72% used TV only). Yet, in the news, sports and kids genres, the multi-screen audience – which was mostly TV and another outlet – rose as high as 30% for a network.
ComScore also found dual-screen use is high as data showed 60% of viewers used the Internet at least once over a five-week period while watching TV, with heavy Facebook visitation. One network had 25% of its viewers using the Web concurrently visiting a related site.
ComScore suggested digital platforms “may be used to supplement the viewing experience and drive multi-platform engagement.”
Researchers agree on that – that’s where the money is – but how to get multiple parties on the same page may be a continual challenge. To quote Tom Petty: “The waiting is the hardest part.” And some networks can't.