On Dec. 9, Nielsen NV held its annual analyst day in New York City, broadcasting the event on the web. Executive vice president and global product leader Megan Clarken's presentation, "Bringing Clarity to a Complex Ecosystem," detailed how Nielsen was providing the linear broadcast TV measurement metrics to video on demand on PCs, laptops, and mobile devices -- phones and tablets.
The service, OCR (for "online campaign ratings"), launched in 2014. Next year, Nielsen will offer DCR ("digital content rating"), TV-comparable metrics for SVOD, subscription video on demand (Netflix), and AVOD advertising VOD (YouTube) for both advertising and content.
How Nielsen works
To understand why broadcasters, distributors, and advertisers value Nielsen's broadcast TV measurement metrics requires an explanation of the Nielsen "panel."
The panel comprises 22,000 households that have statistically been chosen to represent the viewing habits of all US viewers. These metrics are reported daily to Nielsen clients. Advertisers purchases time based on these results; content producers use them to make decisions on whether to continue or cut programs. Nielsen gathers the data using meters installed on all the TV sets in each of 22,000 Nielsen households.
The TV platform used for linear broadcast ad/content measurement adheres to a Media Rating Council (MRC) accredited process. MRC came out of the US congressional Harris Committee Hearings on Broadcast Ratings in the early 1960s. It resulted in the formation of an industry-funded organization to review and accredit audience rating services, the Broadcast Rating Council (now referred to as the MRC).
MRC rules for measuring ad viewing dictate that the ad load must be the same for seven days. Since ads are built into the linear broadcast, measuring content measures ad viewing.
However, the value of broadcast TV measurement metrics is being diluted by the changing habits of viewers. An Ericsson Labs report, "TV and Media 2014," declares, "Although 77 percent of people watch scheduled broadcast TV, almost as many watch streamed on-demand video several times a week or more, at 75 percent. Recorded and physical media viewing is shifting towards easy-to-use, convenient streaming, using on-demand services that allow cross-platform access to content."
Capturing data on all screens besides TV
To capture viewing of members in the Nielsen family on all the screens besides TVs where consumers are increasingly watching content, Nielsen has added meters to the PCs and laptops in half of its households and is expanding to all Nielsen households going forward. This past year, the company metered the mobile devices in 15,000 Nielsen homes and will eventually cover the entire sample.
To evaluate over-the-top viewing in the metered households, Nielsen adds a dongle that detects the IP packets associated with video streaming content in WiFi traffic to the TV. It identifies the provider and content from IDs in the video stream and sends this back to Nielsen.
A software development kit (SDK), a framework for measuring linear (live) and on-demand TV viewing installed in the media players of multichannel video programming distributor (MVPD) provides this information. MVPDs comprise cable television (CATV) systems, direct-broadcast satellite (DBS) providers, and wire line video providers using IPTV.
The SDK ensures capturing the viewing habits of Nielsen households that have MVPD subscriptions but watch content on screens other than the TV at times other than scheduled broadcast time slots -- time-shifted content recorded for later playback.
Over-the-top viewing differs from linear broadcast TV viewing because the former can target specific ads to viewers based on web browsing habits.
OTT content providers also have different business models: the all-you-can-eat subscription services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime, along with the subscription plus ads of Hulu and YouTube. In addition, video on demand is available from MVPDs as well as OTT providers. Nielsen, thus, collects metrics on content and ads views separately.
Over-the-top content presents Nielsen with one more level of complexity. The watermark added to content embedded on linear broadcast content might be stripped away after the content is accumulated and distributed by OTT suppliers, thus making it difficult to identify the content and its provider. Furthermore, OTT content circumvents the SDK in MVPD media players.
Nielsen has been working to insert its SDK in the movie players of the major OTT suppliers: Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and others, running on smartphones, on tablets, or directly in a browser. The SDK performs three functions.
"The first is a census count which pings Nielsen every time someone watches that video, thus gather volumetrics," Clarken says. "The second is the identity of the content by reading the watermark if TV originated or if not by reading metadata -- a script that publishers embed in the stream to identify the content.
"The third piece of data collected is the identity of the device playing the content. If the content is played on a PC or laptop, it drops a cookie and sends Nielsen a cookie ID. If from a mobile device, it can't drop a cookie so it searches the operating system looking for the portable devices' device ID, unique to each device and sends that to Nielsen."
Once Nielsen determines how many Nielsen family viewers are watching what content on what device, what next?
Nielsen encrypts and aggregates the data and sends it to its big data partners, Experian and Facebook. These two match device IDs in the Nielsen data to their registration data. Experian associates four demographics to the IDs. Facebook, from its database of 180 million subscribers, associates two: age and gender that enable Nielsen to determine reach and frequency by age and gender.
However, the picture is incomplete for Nielsen, whose households include children, the portion of the population excluded from the big data databases. Nielsen's metered panel supplies the missing information from Experian and Facebook.
One final hole
There's just one final hole to fill in the company's comprehensive audience measurement infrastructure: installing the SDK that provides the critical information needed to accurately determine what's being watched and who owns the content on all the media players visitors access to view content.
That hole was filled through Nielsen's partnership with Adobe on Oct. 14, 2014. Adobe, through its acquisition of Omniture in 2009, provides those SDKs for 75 percent of the Internet, Clarken said.
The data Adobe collects is run through Nielsen's Digital Content Rating (DCR) architecture to produce DCR ratings. DCR supplies advertisers the same audience ratings used to evaluate ad placement in linear broadcast TV.
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