Commentary

The Most-Watched Show On The Internet?

A few weeks ago, when I was in New York, I had the opportunity to sit down with the producer of the most successful game show on television. The meeting made me think about television, and led to the realization that I could easily identify the most successful reality, drama, news, sports and game shows on television without even thinking.

The realization also made me wonder: what's the most-watched show on the Internet? The reality is: Nobody knows. More, I am not sure that many folks would even agree on the definitions in the question. When talking about Internet video viewing, the concept of "most-watched" is vague to begin with. Are we talking about most uniques to a site, streams on a site, streams in syndication, views on YouTube, podcasts or in banner video autostart advertisements?

Further, when we think about online video shows, it's hard to identify what qualifies as a "show." Are we talking about television shows watched online, professionally produced content distributed online only, content within a vertical section of a video site, and/or content created by advertisers as a means of positioning it as something other than an advertisement?

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I would propose that the "most-watched" measurement should be the highest number of user-initiated streams in any distribution category that is measurable online and that a "show" is any periodically produced branded content.

It is important that these standardized measurements have protection from being gamed. Nearly every lofty claim about wide show distribution includes an enormous caveat such as whether the video was autostarted below the fold with the sound off, or whether users thought it was a bikini video when it was really a McDonald's ad.

Once we come together and figure out a standardized definition for what the most-watched show would be, we should encourage that single show to be independently measured by comScore, Nielsen and Quantcast to present an apples to apples comparison with other comparable entities.

Only then can we begin to have the discussion about the claim of the most-watched show on the Internet. This reality would then beg the question, "what does this mean and why does anyone care?" I leave that one for you to answer for yourselves.

3 comments about "The Most-Watched Show On The Internet?".
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  1. Ruth Barrett from EarthSayers.tv, July 7, 2009 at 4:26 p.m.

    As a video aggregator highlighting the voices of sustainability, we have a system for categorizing the "shows" by format and are using over twenty formats to include appeal, blog, competition, docudrama, event/conference, infotainment, instructional, interview, lecture, news, panel, performance, political speech, product, series, speech, suggestion and tips. What's a show?
    We have reviewed over 2,500 videos to date with another 8,000 to go, so the format options will be refined.

    The biggest issue is duplication bringing into question, the most watched where?

    www.earthsayers.tv, the voices of sustainability

  2. Jeff Bach from Quietwater Media, July 7, 2009 at 4:40 p.m.

    I think some of the writer's comments are wishful thinking. The TV world grew up quite narrowly. Control was in only a few hands. Regulators (eventually the FCC) knew they only had a handful of places to check for wrongdoing.

    I don't see any of that on the internet. I see fragments, low to no cost of entry, unlimited sources, and an unknown huge number of people involved in the process. I think that there will always be too many people in the pie and most likely never enough regulators or the funding to keep the regulators working.

    The internet will likely remain the wild west of unregulated advertising and questionable metrics for some time to come.

    Hopefully it can only get better!
    my .02
    Jeff

  3. Peter Gillespie from GILLESPIE NEW MEDIA, July 7, 2009 at 6:27 p.m.

    An interesting problem. As I see it, the issue is not so much which is "most-watched" but what site is most consistent in generating traffic of a certain demographic. In the end, these are the sites that will generate the most ad-serves. The most-watched-video metric is a hold over from traditional television, and, if anything, that is behind us.

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