Surprise--Nielsen to Track Cross-Platform TV Programming!
Assuming you read as much as I do, then you might be just as surprised as I was to hear that Nielsen announced plans last week to begin measuring how consumers watch television programming on the Web, cell phones and iPods as well as all other digital devices. This all comes as a part of their Anytime Anywhere Measurement Model, which includes the People Meter and a number of other initiatives. Personally I found this to be an extremely newsworthy note, but it was buried as a two-paragraph article on page 24 of Adweek. If I ran a magazine, this would be right out there on page one!
The decision to start tracking television programming across all these platforms is one that I have been waiting for since last Oct. 25, when the press first picked up on the announcement of the video iPod. That date was pivotal and will be a date I remember for years to come because it signaled a massive change in the consumer model for programming. Since that date, the on-demand content model has jumped forward by leaps and bounds--but I didn't expect the Nielsen announcement for at least another six months.
The implications of this announcement for advertisers are actually quite large. First and foremost, this signals a potentially dramatic change in the upfronts as early as next year, because the networks will be capable of selling advertising space across multiple platforms with built-in accountability. For example, my addiction to "Lost" as a consumer can easily be fueled across platforms, but advertisers had no idea how to reach me this past season. I rarely watched the show on TV; I only watched it on iTunes or ABC.com. "Lost" was the No. 10 show on television last season (according to Nielsen as of the week of 5/14/06); however, this did not take into account the downloads on ABC.com (rumors were that around 5 millions viewers had watched portions of the show on the site by that same week), nor did it take into account that episodes of "Lost" were ranked at number 1, 5, 11, 14, 15 and 20 on the list of most popular video downloads on iTunes at that same time (5/14/06). In total, "Lost" was certainly better than No. 10--and had a substantially larger audience than the Nielsen estimate of 10.6 million viewers.
An advertiser could not only reach a larger audience by placing its ads across platform, but would have more accurate numbers reflecting the actual views and the specific audience viewing them. With digital media, we can embed a tag at certain intervals through the programming that guarantee actual viewing by the audience--plus, we can amass more data on who the audience is, where they are viewing the program, how many times they view the program, etc. For an advertiser, this is extremely valuable--and for the networks, this is a premium audience which they can sell for their programs and encourages them to make these programs available across formats. If you thought there was any hindrance to the growth of the on-demand model in the next few years, this announcement removed all doubts.
So why was this buried so deeply in the magazine? My only guess is that it wasn't thought out well enough--or else Nielsen requested this to not be a huge story. I'm sure there will be holes poked in their methodology over the coming months, but I truly hope they pursue its launch. A little information can go a long way here, and I applaud Nielsen for taking the initiative to develop this product.
Get ready for Web 3.0!