As much as I think I can keep track of all new digital innovations, it’s close to impossible now. There are so many technological advancements that have the potential to upend television as we know it today, as shown by the announcements at last week’s TV of Tomorrow conference.
Tracy Swedlow, founder and Editor in Chief of Interactive TV Today (http://itvt.com) has been a front-runner in the field of digital media development and reportage since the early 1990s. By 2006 she had developed the TV of Tomorrow conference to gather all silo’ed technology such as mobile, Internet, smart TV, gaming and advanced advertising into one expansive, multiplatform, interactive meeting. She discusses the TV of Tomorrow in this video.
At the conference, Sam Pemberton from Softel was the morning’s keynote speaker. His introduction was instructive. “If you are into interactivity, this is the place. [The conference offers] a view of what is happening now in the industry, what is the state of the art now and what is coming in the future.” He spoke of change as always being a good thing because it brings opportunities -- “and opportunities abound in our industry now.”
Media is changing, particularly in the advancements of smart TVs and smart second screens. These technologies affect the way viewers interact with media. If we thought fragmentation of attention was a challenge before multi-screens, now it is epidemic. According to MRI, 34% of viewers post while watching TV, 25% visit show websites, and 80% of smartphone owners and 81% of tablet owners use their devices while in front of the TV.
According to the conference consensus, measurement is already lagging behind change. Stacey Lynn Schulman conceded that “consumers are adopting technology faster than we can measure it -- and it is hard to measure. We have to join hands and figure it out.”
There was some criticism of Nielsen, which is the industry currency for television – though not for online. Cross-platform measurement consistency is a current challenge for Nielsen, which it is beginning to address.
For Dan Suratt of A+E, “We don't use Nielsen online measurement because Nielsen doesn’t match our internal logs. The results are often wildly off -- both up and down. If we know it isn't right online, how do we know it is right on-air?”
GroupM’s Mike Bologna agreed. “It's easy to complain,” he said. “Nielsen is not perfect. We ask 20,000 what they watch and assume the rest watches the same. But we are part of the problem too. We just complain." He also noted: “Most clients don't want to risk new measurements. We would be considered out of line if we went around the current measurement.”
Solutions to this measurement conundrum were offered by such companies as comScore, Rentrak, Kantar, FourthWall, Media Ocean and organizations that explore such issues, like CIMM (Coalition for Innovative Media Measurement). Rentrak’s Cathy Hetzel , for example, approached the challenge by looking at multi- and cross-platform via an assigned episode code, so everyone knows where and when an episode is being viewed. Recent studies involving cross-platform solutions and set-top-box data, as well as asset identification for all content (a CIMM initiative), have helped move the needle toward a more comprehensive measurement.
The big news of the day was an announcement by wireWAX, which is a self-serve platform for making video interactive. The product has the ability to make the TV living room environment an interactive experience capable of gesture control through the use of a Microsoft 360 connection into a TiVo box. This is a way to move TV viewing from a passive lean-back experience to an active lean-forward experience. Relaxing in front of the TV? Don’t scratch your nose!
How do you monetize these advancements? While advancements can allow for better targeting, Seth Haberman posited that there can be a difference in audience quality when measurement is based solely on something like clicks. “Those who click the most have the most time to click” -- such as more downscale viewers. Since the multiscreen world is fragmenting before us, we need to better ascertain what the economic difference are between mass viewers and individual on-demand viewing.
Questions abounded from conference-goers: When you factor in attention to a second screen while viewing a primary screen (such as when you drive a viewer to a second screen for advertising or social media), how do you really know where viewers are focusing their attention? Terms like “engagement-based advertising” sound compelling, but how do you standardize and scale a measurement for that? And can that shift be appropriately monetized? (If an ad created to drive synchronization costs $100k, can you really generate $100k worth of income from that ad? Who knows?) Is binge viewing beneficial? Does it chew up inventory too quickly, or does it enhance loyalty?
No matter how we solve the monetization equation, ultimately, it all comes down to content. Several panelists reaffirmed that without content there are no advertisers. For MVPDs, TV Everywhere is the cost of doing business today and gives customers the ability to justify the value of their monthly cable bill.
What will next year’s TVOT bring? Stay tuned….