Imagine if Nielsen said that "American Idol" got 30 million viewers for a particular episode -- but another competing research company said the show pulled in 12.5 million for the same episode.
Maybe a third company said neither is right -- that the biggest TV show in the land pulled in 48 million viewers. (A senior executive of the company that owns "Idol"'s producer, 19
Entertainment, believes that viewers were under-reported
, especially since some 64 million votes were cast
for a recent episode.)
All this, in effect, is similar to the mixed viewing signals sent by Internet researchers concerning online video destinations. A recent story
in the New York Times
shows why traditional marketers who use TV may be reluctant to spend large chunks
of money in the new digital space -- even with the promise of more ROI coming from the online platform. The story notes that Nielsen Online reported 8.9 million visitors to Hulu in March, while
another measurement firm, comScore, counted 42 million.
There's disparity for you. With numbers like these, traditional TV metrics may look downright upstanding.
research critics might still say Nielsen can't count of its way out of a paper bag. Or make that paper diaries,
which are still used for local TV measurement in a large part of the country.
One could surely argue TV still needs a strong competing viewing research service. Set-top-box data is
surely a welcome addition. But will there be these kinds of like-to-like data differences? We think not. Just take a look at recent TNS Direct View versus Nielsen data here.
If you wonder why some TV marketers are moving back to TV during this recession, or keeping
some money on the sidelines that would have gone to new digital platforms, one only needs to see what Hulu and some other Internet video providers are going through.
Surely, cable and
syndication TV in the '80s and early '90s went through some weird bumps when it came to their young and growing viewership -- volatility that, at least in cable's case, had to do with the size of
those networks' respective universes.
Advertisers still bought media on those platforms, with the promise of better days to come. The big question: Will online video advertisers do
the same now, with billions of dollars of media budgets on the line in an increasingly fractionalized marketplace