Commentary

Streaming Grows, And Remains Baffling

As the year nears a close, streaming video keeps making strides -- and so does streaming advertising. It would be nice to say consumers and advertisers are perfectly at home in their new location, but that would be wrong.

For one, advertisers still have no idea if many of the ads they paid were actually ever seen, or even had a chance to be seen.

This is the kind of problem people in the business talk a lot about among themselves, with a lot of wink-winking because at some point, all those wasted views are meaningful kinds of fraud. I don’t know how “viewability” became the word to describe the problem, when lack of viewability is really what’s going on.

The IAB said earlier this month that $4.6 billion in advertising spend was wasted on “fake advertising impressions that are neither generated by real advertisers nor received by actual consumers.” It's the biggest part of a total of $8.2 billion wasted (or charitably, not gained) by fraud including malvertising and infringed content. (Not all of the cheating involved video advertising, I should add.)

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At least when suspected Ponzi schemer/pill gouger Martin Shkreli proposed selling a $1 pill for $750, he presumably intended to actually deliver the pill.  

But on the other hand, if consumers aren’t aware of a lot of phony advertising they probably don’t know how much data is being collected about them, and how much their every online move is being watched online. And even beyond that. ProPublica in November disclosed that 10 million Vizio smart TV sets out there are collecting data about viewers that can then be sold, and used to reach you on whatever other devices you own.  You don’t get a chance to opt-out, and until recently, Vizio didn’t note it in its privacy policy

“Vizio’s technology works by analyzing snippets of the shows you’re watching, whether on traditional television or streaming Internet services such as Netflix. Vizio determines the date, time, channel of programs — as well as whether you watched them live or recorded,” ProPublica said. “The viewing patterns are then connected your IP address - the Internet address that can be used to identify every device in a home, from your TV to a phone.”

A story in today’s New York Times points out another weird thing we don’t know.

In the big picture, very few people know about AdChoices, a program that allows consumers to stop from being served many ads based on tracking.and cookies. The story says that triangular-shaped logo is seen one trillion times a month. But a study shows that while 26% of users said they were familiar with the symbol, only 9% knew what the heck it means. (There’s another survey, with stats that showed 19% awareness.)

As the Times points out, if you disable the cookies, you also block the AdChoices opt-out function. I love a plot twist.

So what do we know? Nothing much. Despite the invention of a brand new way to communicate, and billions of dollars spent on advertising, some facts just never get known. It seems to me that part of the bad communication eco-sphere is planned, and another part is steely indifference. Leaders of those two camps, when discovered, each point at each other. 

"You didn't tell us!" "

"Yes, we did! You didn't care to pay attention."

A good amount of streamed video is actually coming from broadcast and cable networks, and as the years go by, the convergence of TV an online video speeds along. And yet as some recent data shows, 75% of consumers don’t know of, or understand what, TV Everywhere is, and a lot of people who probably want to use it just aren’t. Many in the business are bummed. If they knew about it, so would many consumers.

There were once similarly baffling statistics about the high percentage of high definition television set owners who were watching on HDTV sets but  not getting high definition pictures, either by their own lack of knowledge or (very baffling) by choice. TV Everywhere seems pretty much to be this part of the decade's parallel to that.


pj@mediapost.com

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