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.