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Consolidated Measurement for TV - Learning from the Mistakes of Digital

Posted by JT White on Aug 13, 2019 9:03:00 AM

consolidated measurement for TVimage credit: Proxima Studio/

News of Nielsen being on the block has been swirling as of late. Couple that with the threat from major broadcasters to walk away from the measurement giant, and the growth of Addressable TV offerings leads us all to the very real potential of a completely reimagined measurement paradigm for TV; but what would that look like?

Nielsen has been the currency for television since 1950, drafting off a Radio ratings system released in December of 1947. Since that time, Nielsen has made great efforts to stay in front of the ever-changing screen ecosystem, but digital measurement was born out of necessity and outside of the Nielsen world. Along the way, with video in particular, there have been challenges that the TV world would be wise to learn from.


Anyone who has worked in the Digital world is familiar with the myriad of three (sometimes four) letter acronyms that start with “C.” This includes the following:

  • CPM (cost per thousand)
  • CPI (cost per impression, or cost per install)
  • CPC (cost per click)
  • CPD (cost per download) or most recently, with the explosion of Digital VideoCPV (cost per view) or CPCV (cost per completed view).

Trying to normalize all these currencies creates a ton of work for agencies/advertising for reporting. This leads to a tremendous amount of lift for Publishers to integrate the technology required to measure and report on each of these varying tenders in every ad slot.

The need to cater to different KPI’s is one we cannot ignore, as TV already knows between Brand advertisers and Direct Response clients; as these measurements proliferated in digital, the complexity and ability of Publishers and SSP’s alike to support them became unruly, creating lost opportunities for all parties.

In my opinion, the general goal of all video is a completed view. Good creative, if viewed in full, will drive the consumer to the next step (creative remains so important). So if we—on both the buy and sell side—can agree to that as a starting point, we can create a workflow for what happens after that view that allows for the multitude of needs based on Advertisers, while sticking to a consistent language around how video is bought and sold. That consistency will help Agencies/Advertisers to plan and Publishers/Operators to appropriately forecast and ultimately demystify the entire process.

Platform Specific Measurement

Advertisers and Agencies alike need to push against this. If we all stand behind standardized measurement, one would assume this would not be an issue; but the term “TV” has come to mean many things to many people. Twitter, Facebook and others have their own version of “TV,” generally referring to live broadcast video.

The technical requirements associated with measuring real-time viewership of ad units is an easy lift-off point for platform-specific currency and measurement. By not conforming to an industry standard, these platforms delegitimize the rest of the industry, which pushes adoption of their own measurement and puts us in the same position discussed above in digital.

Delivery Issues

One of the biggest lessons from digital was the actual delivery method of the video assets. VPAID has been nothing short of a nightmare for all parties involved; and the subsequent roll out and non-adoption of VAST 3.0 and 4.0 did nothing to help. While 4.1 has the promise of fixing the issue in digital if adoption occurs, agreeing on delivery in advance of scale is a must.

The capital cost of building, maintaining and eventually switching out these “standards” is not insignificant. It creates churn on Operators/Publishers; and with a “standard” as loose as VPAID—where control is completely relinquished and the Operator/Publisher becomes blind to the unit and its behavior—it becomes impossible to properly forecast your inventory. This creates inefficiency for all parties and ultimately leads to lost opportunity. The right standard is debatable, but a universally recognized one is table stakes.

In Conclusion

We have a unique opportunity to shape the future of TV measurement TOGETHER. Where we landed in digital works, and it works relatively well; but the path to get there was arduous. We have the history and roadmap that digital took.

Whether it’s Nielsen or some other player is irrelevant. In my view, it would be ideal for Nielsen, as the incumbent, to lead the charge, but it still stands that this conversation needs to accelerate so we are in a place of unified understanding before one-to-one TV measurement is at scale. It is in our hands, so let’s learn from the past to best position our own future.

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