Total Audience Measurement

Historically audience measurement was confined to silos — primarily TV, press and radio. As content consumption increasingly occurs across multiple screens, the need for a comprehensive, multi-platform measurement tool that can accurately capture the total audience has become a top priority.

To meet this need, industry leaders are developing new measurement methodologies and tools that can capture and analyse audience behaviour across various platforms and devices.

Some years back, a Nielsen spokesperson shared an example of a client’s programme where only 45% of the episode’s audience watched it live.  Of the remain audience, 32% watched it via DVR during the first seven days after it aired and 2% watched on DVR between 8 days and 35 days after it aired. Another 7% watched it on VOD, 6% watched via a connected TV and 8% watched digitally, streaming it on a PC, mobile device or tablet. (Source: Jason Lynch, Adweek, quoting Megan Clarken, EVP, global digital product leadership, Nielsen).

This illustrates the complexity of total audience measurement. As can be gauged from the example, the multiplatform measurement tool that Nielsen and other service providers are developing, must meet the following requirements:

  • Measure audience across all screens and platforms including TV (live), DVR, VOD, connected (smart) TV, computer and mobile,
  • For both content and ads,
  • On an apple-to-apple basis.
  • De-duplicate the overlap in audience.
  • And satisfy diverse stakeholders (media owners, publishers, advertisers).

The apple-to-apple basis for comparison is one of the more challenging requirements. Currently the way display audience is measured is vastly different from the way that TV is measured. Hence the need to redefine the rules so that whatever is measured is comparable across platforms. And this process of redefining the currency involves all of the important stakeholder, including media buyers and sellers.

The metric currently used for measuring live TV — AMA (average minute audience) — is slated to become the currency for total measurement.

Nielsen played a leading role in engaging stakeholders and service development. The company launched total audience measurement in phases in 2016. The service was initially provided on a “private industry preview” basis, i.e., clients could see their own data. The company then launched the syndicated service, allowing access to the full data set.

The alliance of comScore, the leader in digital audience measurement, with Kantar in 2015, established a dependable framework for cross-media audience and campaign measurement capabilities. Their complementary strengths will pave the way for the deployment of global measurement capabilities in total audience measurement.

Service providers, however, have clearly struggled to meet industry expectations. The suspension of Nielsen’s national ratings service by the Media Rating Council (MRC) in September 2021 dealt a serious blow to the Nielsen Company. The MRC, which is responsible for setting and enforcing media measurement standards in the US, has a diverse membership that includes major media companies, advertising agencies, and other organizations involved in media research and measurement. Accreditation from the MRC is highly valued, as it signifies that a company has met the MRC’s rigorous standards for transparency and consistency in media measurement.

Since the suspension, Nielsen has made changes to its measurement methodology and implemented additional quality controls to address the MRC’s concerns and it was reported in April 2022 that Nielsen’s US TV ratings service may “soon” be reaccredited by the MRC.

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