In a move likely to spark some ad industry controversy, the Advertising Research Foundation this morning issued a call to the industry to scrap the way it has defined the fundamental building block of television audience measurement -- the so-called "TV household" -- and replace it with a more encompassing one: the "TV-accessible household," or TVA for short.
In its call, the ARF makes a compelling case for redefining the way the ad industry thinks about "households" in a rapidly expanding universe in which traditional forms of "linear" TV viewing coexist with alternative, nonlinear forms of watching the same or similar kinds of programming: OTT (over-the-top via the internet), streaming, subscription and ad-supported video-on-demand services, etc.
But the action, if and/when it is adopted by the ad industry, will have an ancillary effect on what could ultimately be the last vestige of the the TV ratings -- or gross rating points -- that have ruled the TV advertising marketplace for three-quarters of a century.
By redefining households as being "TV accessible," meaning they don't necessarily have a conventional TV connection, but have alternative devices -- connected TV ones or OTT means -- the ARF's recommendation would effectively increase the denominator that TV ratings are derived from -- by about 4%.
Since TV ratings represent a percentage of all the households that could potentially watch a TV show, that means average ratings would also go down by a corresponding amount.
The ARF's call is based on some empirical research it has conducted over the past couple of years to understand the way modern-day media households access and watch television across an array of connections and devices.
That study shows 5% of U.S. households no longer even have a conventional TV set in them, but some (4%) have broadband internet access enabling them to watch TV via other devices.
The ARF's data also reveals some interesting new insights about the demographic composition of households and their propensity to be TV accessible or not.
“This trend towards devices also holds true for audiences that do have a television set in the household – across age and marital status demographics," ARF Chief Research Officer Paul Donato explains in a statement issued with the call, adding: “Forty-one percent of consumers with television sets reported watching professionally produced programming on a device the previous day. These dynamics highlight the problems with cross-device measurement today.
Why does Nielsen even still exist? There's so much tracking on all these devices, and even on TV's that easily track what you are watching, when you are watching it, and what your personal info and demographics are, without using a sample when it's already tracking every person watching. Look at how Netflix tracks people who watch "Stranger Things" or "Wednesday", substantial numbers every time episodes are released.
Daniel, the reason that Nielsen exists is that somebody has to organize it all, maintian it, process the information in a valid and nationallty representative manner and transmit the data to subscribers. Suppose, hypothetically, there was no Nielsen and that all set usage was being done on ACR receivers---not so by the way. These devices "know" what channel is on and what content is on the screen---not to be confused with who is watching or if anyone is even present or attentive. How is such information---from millions of sets ----to be aggregated so all sets are represented? Who does that---and gets paid by the TV networks and the agencies---mostly the former----for doing so?
The answer is an ACR home panel, which is nothing more than a Nielsen-type research operation only the difference is that it only tracks set usage on ACR sets, nothing else. As a matter of fact, Nielsen's new service will also employ ACR (and STB) panels with millions of homes as its "big data" set usage base, then meld in the important aspect of who's "watching" and the activities on all types of sets in ACR- as well as non- ACR homes from its current 100,000- person peoplemeter panel. It ain't perfect, but it goes well beyond an ACR-only panel in many ways.