Q&A Interview with Daniel Fischer, President of the Solve It Group

Daniel Fischer, President of the Solve It Group, is one of the foremost thinkers and researchers on commercial pod behavior. He has worked in all sides of the business from Discovery Networks on the programming side, Nielsen Research on the vendor side and Time Warner on the MSO side. But his current work on approaches to increase commercial and program ratings through applied cognitive neuroscience impacts the entire business model. In addition to trans company pod analysis, Daniel's company also consults with kids programmer, qubo Ventures.

I interviewed Daniel in July 2009. Here are five videos comprising the full interview:

Video                                       (length)
Viewing Changes                      (4:14)
Pod Performance                       (6:34)
Predictions                                 (2:17)
CTAM                                        (1:54)
Clients                                        (3:49)

CW: In the span of your career, what would you say has been the most dramatic change in the media landscape?

DF: I know we are going to talk about today’s buzz – the use of online and its effect on media. But over the past thirty years, I think the most major change occurred as cable was distributed across the nation. For the first time,  consumers had much more choice: 30, 40, 60 and eventually 500 channels. And this changed people’s viewing behavior in a radical way. Broadcast networks lost at least 50% of their share and numerous new brand names were born like MTV, CNN, Discovery and the like. To date, that was a much more profound change than any effect online has had on video consumption.

Charlene Weisler interviews Daniel Fischer, President of the Solve It Group. Daniel shares his thoughts about changes in the media landscape.

Charlene Weisler interviews Daniel Fischer, President of the Solve It Group. Daniel shares his thoughts about commercial pods and pod performance research.

Charlene Weisler interviews Daniel Fischer, President of the Solve It Group. Daniel shares his thoughts about the future of media.

CW: Daniel, tell me about your work with CTAM.

DF: CTAM has been a great organization to be associated with. I’m on the CTAM Research committee and volunteer my time on a number of interesting studies. CTAM is in a position to do very large comprehensive research studies and then make them available at very reasonable prices to their members – a consortium of programmers and MSOs. We are just completing a huge study-  The Three Screen Experience” -looking at video usage on television, mobile devices and the pc. Really groundbreaking stuff. One of my favorite smaller studies looked at Apple TV. As that platform began to be sold we were curious about its impact on the TV experience. And of course that discussion involved online usage as well. A couple of years ago I was fortunate to work on an on-demand study which was also very comprehensive and gave great insights to the industry. So I greatly encourage all companies to take advantage of this research. It is a great way, for an economical price, to gain knowledge on the largest, most important issues that the industry faces.

Charlene Weisler interviews Daniel Fischer, President of the Solve It Group. Daniel talks about CTAM.

CW: You have done significant research in the behavior of the commercial pod. Can you share any of your findings with us?

DF: I started Solve It Group in 2005 about the time Nielsen changed the resolution of  ratings from quarter hour to minute by minute. I think we all knew that a portion of viewers were shifting during the commercial pod. But the minute by minute ratings proved that it was occurring and gave us layers of ways to understand that; whether we were looking at different demos, dayparts, program genres – anyway you could cut the data. So very quickly we learned that most drop-off occurs immediately in the first minute, some more in the second minute and then the pod tends to level out with the audience slowly returning. Also, there is a fair amount of variation – demographics , dayparts, program types. These affect the level of drop-off. And so my clients were people who gained this understanding for their nets and competitors.

CW:Are there any general words of advice to networks who want to raise the base of their commercial pod ratings?

DF: Well certainly all networks have been very active in testing different strategies. I think it has been supremely difficult for networks to migrate any of these ideas across all of their pods. Roughly speaking, a 24 hour network has about 30,000 pods per year which are servicing approximately 120,000 commercials, perhaps 20,000 promos. Huge volume on just one network. This led me to some work that is showing some very interesting promise. We began to research on the science side, coming up to speed on recent advances in cognitive neuroscience. Tremendous advances have occurred in the last few years. We were very interested in linking the world of science to a needed business application- increasing retention and improving programs during certain key moments. Over the last 18 months we’ve gained a very good understanding of “engagement”. For our work, engagement and attention are optimized by applying an understanding for how the brain processes audio-visual streams. We have been fortunate to develop and test these ideas with a number of major media companies and the results are quite promising.

Charlene Weisler interviews Daniel Fischer, President of the Solve It Group. Daniel shares his thoughts about recent projects.

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