As much as I think I can keep track of all new digital innovations, it is close to impossible now. There are so many technological advancements that have the potential to upend television as we know it today as evidenced by the announcements at last week’s TV of Tomorrow conference.
Tracy Swedlow, founder and Editor in Chief of Interactive TV Today (www.itvt.com) has been a front runner in the field of digital media development and reportage since the early 1990s. At the time, while researching virtual reality, she realized that the internet could impact television at its very basic level. By 2006 she formed the TV of Tomorrow conference which gathers all silo’ed technology such as mobile, internet, smart TV, gaming and advanced advertising to present a one expansive multi-platform interactive television conference. She discusses the TV of Tomorrow, its genus and its future in this video:
Sam Pemberton from Softel was the morning’s keynote speaker. His introduction to the conference 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 impact the way viewers interact with media. If we thought fragmentation and attention were challenges before multi-screens, now it is epidemic. According to MRI, 34% of viewers post while watching TV, 25% visit websites of shows and 63% of tablet users interact with their device while viewing TV. In addition, 80% of smartphone owners use their device while in front of the TV and 81% of tablet owners use their device while watching TV. And fragmentation will only increase; Smart TV sales are up 41%.
Can measurement keep up? According to the conference consensus, measurement is already lagging behind. There was some criticism of Nielsen which is the industry currency for television but not for online. Cross platform measurement consistency is a current challenge for Nielsen that it is now 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?” 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 ad figure it out.” And GroupM’s Mike Bologna agreed “It's easy to complain. 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." And he conceded that “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 was offered by such companies as comScore, Rentrak, Kantar, FourthWall, Media Ocean and organizations that explore such issues as 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. In this way they know where and when the 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 towards a more comprehensive measurement.
Measurement aside, there are also the issues of technology advancements, the roll-out of Smart TV’s (and their potential to upend current viewer experiences with their TV set) and advanced advertising to help monetize the digital evolution.
The big news of the day was an announcement by wireWAX which is a self-serve platform for making video interactive. They have 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. In this way they can move TV content from a passive lean-back experience to 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 is 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 viewing and individual on demand viewing.
Questions abound: 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 the viewer is 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 content is king and without content there are no advertisers. It just needs to be measurable and easy. 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….