It’s well known across the media landscape that consumers in the U.S. are connecting with more content across more devices than ever before. But as an industry, we have not tapped into the truly unique opportunities presented by this increased consumption at the same pace as consumers.
Let’s face facts: the amount of people using traditional platforms is holding relatively steady. According to Nielsen’s Q1 2018 Total Audience Report, U.S. adults’ daily time spent with both live plus time-shifted TV and radio has remained consistent over the past three measured quarters—a clear testament to the relative stability of these cornerstone media platforms. However, it is also abundantly clear that we have reached a watershed moment when it comes to current and future viewing behavior. Two-thirds of U.S. TV households currently have devices capable of streaming content to the TV set. And overall video use—time spent with a TV set, computer video and using video focused app/web on smartphones and tablets—netted out to nearly six hours per day for U.S. adults during first-quarter 2018, with consumers choosing the platform that best meets their needs for watching content.
But instead of leaning into this new golden age of content and connectivity, we are stuck as an industry in a morass of inaction, admiring the problems from the sidelines.
In a recent article in Ad Age titled “The Future of TV is now (or never)” by David Cohen, President of North America for Magna Global, David notes that the ad environment is more dynamic and complex than ever before—and that’s true. He says, “Right now, we are at a critical inflection point. This can either signal an industry renaissance marked by more relevant ads (fueled by rich data) or it could be the industry's death knell.”
I agree that the right data is critical to developing relevant and successful content. And Nielsen has delivered, and continues to refine, measurement across all screens, devices and delivery types to fuel the future of media. We have provided the industry with metrics flexible enough to monetize any content and facilitate the crucial transactions between buyers and sellers of media. But while Nielsen has measurement capability for all viewing, the industry must decide what viewing metric it will use going forward.
The missing link is not Nielsen’s antiquated demographic measurement, it’s the current lack of industry consensus. We’re all in this together, and we support the industry in any direction it wants to head with the currency evolution.
Megan Clarken, President of the Nielsen Watch business, said recently, “As the industry has been discussing this issue and the challenges and opportunities of the current measurement landscape, we have taken an active role in encouraging those conversations so that the industry can come to a consensus and bravely move forward with a new measurement standard that will meet the needs of our evolving landscape.”
In the absence of an agreed-upon standard measurement, we are addressing the industry’s desire to dive deeper on demographics. Our global analytics practices, which complement our syndicated measurement offerings, provide clients with planning and reporting on custom segments beyond age and gender, as well as deduplicated cross-platform reach across screens. In addition, we’ve developed APIs for audience-based buying with a range of clients. As a result, we’re able to provide custom segments in addressable advertising and in linear across a variety of platforms, as well as audience-based planning and buying within industry tools already in the agency workflow.
These solutions are a long way from only age and gender demographics. But the reality is that no matter how sophisticated our measurement is, without common and consistent currency definitions based on a foundation of quality data, the future of viewing measurement will remain at a stalemate.
Ultimately, I agree with David’s conclusion: “We must work towards a common cross-platform foundation that acknowledges and addresses changes in media consumption and leverages the rich data in the ecosystem. The future of our industry depends on it.”
The future does depend on it, and we must move forward courageously—together.