As published on afr.com.au today, John Sintras, Starcom Australia's CEO comments on 'Time Shift is Just the Beginning':
December 2009 will see the most significant change in TV measurement since the introduction of PeopleMeters in 1991: the inclusion of ‘time shifted viewing’ into the TV ratings currency.
This is a positive and necessary step forward for the industry. Time shifted viewing is not new, people have been doing it for years with VCRs, but unlike other markets, that viewing has never been captured in the ratings data in Australia. The advent of digital video recorders, however, has made it easier to record far more content, making it increasingly important to measure this viewing as penetration of these devices continues to increase.
So what can we expect as this data becomes available on December 28?
Everything to do with how TV is planned, negotiated, bought, measured and covered editorially will be affected, and a huge amount of education will be required across the industry in a relatively short period of time.
- Overall ratings will increase, as ‘time shifted viewing’ has never been measured before. The TV networks will try and monetise this increase, while clients and their agencies will argue they have already been paying for these eyeballs but just couldn’t measure them until now
- The size of the ratings increase will not be consistent across genres and programs. We know from overseas experience that the amount of time shifted viewing can vary dramatically – we can expect less time shifted viewing for live sport and water cooler programs such as Masterchef
- We will now have the choice of three sets of ratings, Live (viewed within the minute), As Live (viewed with that day) and Time Shifted (viewed within a period to be agreed, but likely to be seven days)
- Everyone will need to decide which set of ratings is the most relevant for them, and to ensure that this consistent definition is used all the way through the process of briefing, strategy, negotiation, buying and measurement
- Different clients will be interested in different definitions depending on how time sensitive their advertising is, why pay for eyeballs seven days later if your sale ended mid-week?
- Different negotiation and buying strategies will emerge depending on which ratings are most valuable to each client
- Journalists and the TV networks will need to consider which ratings they publicise, and to disclose which definition they are reporting. Day after ratings reports might be timely but won’t reflect the final ratings after time shifting. Will anyone be patient enough to wait a week to report full results?
- Historical benchmarking and direct response models will be affected, as direct year-on-year comparisons won’t be possible for ‘As Live’ and ‘Time Shifted’ viewing
- Competitive analysis and Independent third party auditing will also be affected. Which definition will be used for competitive comparisons and cost benchmarking? Will comparisons be appropriate if clients are buying three different sets of ratings?
- All industry TV systems will need to be re-configured to cope with the additional data
There is a lot of work and potential confusion ahead as the industry adjusts to this expansion of the TV currency. Agencies and clients not already thinking through these issues will be caught out.
But it doesn’t stop there. How is the industry going to measure Catchup TV, IPTV (downloads/streaming) and mobile viewing as these forms of TV viewing become more common? The OzTAM currency will capture time shifting of the exact broadcast itself, not alternative versions available in other digital formats.
Ideally, we should work towards a holistic measurement system that can capture viewing in all its forms. Will OzTAM work towards incorporating this viewing into the main currency over time, or will we need a supplementary service to provide this?
The subscription TV (STV) industry has already announced a supplementary service in the form of Multiview Analytics, and it will be fascinating to see what additional data becomes available for viewing and purchase dynamics in STV homes. But what about the majority of homes that still don’t have STV?
This is huge challenge facing the industry and it will need to be addressed soon. Time shifted ratings are just the beginning, and time is running out to meet the challenges of a future already upon us.