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How To Measure TV Audience On Different Platforms

How To Measure TV Audience On Different Platforms

How much time do you spend watching TV? You might remember spending time with family watching TV after dinner. This may still hold true in many households (well, it does hold true in my case) but the picture today looks different than what it was just a few years ago.



Why this change?

With the evolving technology, there has been a tremendous shift in behavior today. I feel mobile in particular, has been the driving force of this shift. The experience is now real-time and far more comfortable. According to Google Statistics, 90% of viewers turn to other devices like smartphones, tablets, and PC to get more information about the advertised product they see on Television. Since TV measurements methods have become inadequate when it comes to providing a comprehensive picture of this present day consumer behavior.

Traditional way of ad consumption

AC Nielsen tracked television viewing of US households with panel-based measurement in 1950 which showed that the Gross Ratings Point (GRP) didn’t really fluctuate since the world was not really digitalised. GRP is a standard measure in advertising which measures the impact of advertising. This is calculated as a percent of the target market reached X exposure frequency. The scenario is still almost the same as by far most people consume video over cable. The viewership of TV delivered on digital platforms continues its rise. This means viewers are now depending upon over-the-top devices like Chromecast or Roku or are replacing their cable set top box. Let us have a look at the statistics:

  • The daily time spent viewing these devices increased by 80% year over year in 2015.
  • The consumption of video using smartphones increased 23% i.e 2 hours and 4 minutes per month in 2015.
  • Tv viewing over personal computers increased by 19% i.e 12 hours and 36 minutes per month.

GRP and Panel based ratings: Is there end near?

With these statistics, and the shift of consumer behavior to digital world. Does this mean the time has come when we are supposed to say bye-bye to panel based ratings and the GRP? Although the marketplace won’t replace the GRP as of now but it is believed that these two will evolve dramatically in order to amalgamate the strengths of digital viewership.

The hybrid of panel and census measurement model is emerging. This combines traditional systems with modern census capabilities. This will help advertisers as well as broadcasters have a better idea of

  • Who is watching
  • When they are watching
  • The impact of an ad or program on individual viewers
  • Allow them to tailor more personal Ad experiences

“TV is a communal appliance and getting beyond household estimation to personal preferences will drive the next generation of TV viewing” Sean Harvey, Senior Product Manager, Google Fiber

The Status Quo

With the advent of technology and digitalisation, the traditional TV viewership continue to decline. According to the statistics, cumulative viewership dropped by 8% in 2015 including a 20% decline in the age group of 18 to 24-year-olds.

These ratings decline and ad growth provide an incomplete picture since they don’t into consideration the tremendous growth in over-the-top viewership of TV content and the growth of digital video. This means that the viewers are shifting from TV to other platforms, ad dollars have yet to follow as quickly. This implies that brand marketing on television has been practiced for generations. The entire cycle from research and creative to planning, buying, and finally measurement is a well-functioning machine. However, the important point is that marketers have always craved for audience census data just like internet is driving. Tools and techniques like ‘programmatic buying’ and ‘performance advertising’ have become important for the trade. These tools are being made available across video and clients challenges for agencies in terms of can and should be delivered and also when. However, testing the traditional ratings panels, a 95% confidence level was achieved according to the ratings given by people.

With this level of trust, GRP and panel driven measurements will be continued to relied upon in order to provide information regarding reach and frequency.

TV delivery also has become digital to a great extent and set-top boxes have become fully recognizable. The ‘Census+Panel’ approach is becoming the trusted one when it comes to reliance on the GRP. However, when it comes to longer term, the viability of the GRP in its basic form is in question.

Bridging the gap between Panel and Census

Challenge 1:

One of the biggest challenges with regard to measurement gap is the same language.

“It’s really important for GRPs to continue to extend into the digital role,” says Rany Ng, Director of Product Management, Google Inc.

Speaking the same language of the targeted audiences and GRPs is necessary to bridge the gap. The industries who are trying to harmonize census data with panel and companies like Google are the ones leading the market. This shows granularity and precision of digital measurement is the first and the foremost driver of change.

TV advertising industry is moving nearer to census level measurements with the help of native digital platforms (Snapchat, YouTube, Hulu, and Google Play) and delivery of programming via ISPs (Comcast xfinity and Verizon FiOS).

Challenge 2:

The integration of high degree of measurability of ad effectiveness with digital world.

“GRPs, reach, and frequency describe how many people saw the ad and how many times they saw it. They don’t describe impact,” says Dave Barney, TV Attribution Product Manager for Google.

He also said adding effectiveness and measurement to traditional platforms like television and radio, then there is nothing in the traditional area to account for that. The ads on TV has a cent percent share of voice. But on digital platforms, ads come in all kinds of formats and these ads populate the viewer’s screen at once. It is important to see how comparable an ad view is on TV to an ad view in digital.

Solutions like Google’s TV Attribution map users’ interaction across various devices and channels provide a broader view of user engagement. The advertisers can get a top to down view of the marketing mix in combination with bottom to up, data-driven attribution. This helps in the effectiveness of an ad with metrics like Cost Per Available Query (CPAQ), cost per conversion, Cost Per Attributed Click (CPAC), and conversion value. Accordingly, campaigns can be optimized. 

Measuring Internet-based TV content and it’s challenges

It presents its own set of challenges since a portion of mobile and internet TV viewing remains unmeasurable today. TV viewership is rapidly shifting but the measurement ways are still lagging behind.

Talking about the future

Ad effectiveness & the customer journey “I do think people will still continue to buy on audiences. But both the importance and the emphasis will shift to metrics like brand lift, sales lift, and view metrics to better understand the effectiveness of their campaigns.” Rany Ng, Director of Product Management, Google Inc.

Advertisers today are trying to keep pace with the shifts in content delivery as well as viewer behavior driven by digital techniques. However, these changes come up with great opportunities to know the viewers from a deeper level than ever and reach them from all parts of the marketing funnel.

Advertisers get reliable feedback on what viewers saw with the help of traditional GRP measurement. With the help of census data and programmatic ad buying capabilities, one can understand the effectiveness of an ad spend with respect to driving brand favorability, sales, loyalty, intent, and awareness and that too in detailed manner. Using these real time data, advertisers can optimize their campaigns accordingly. Google is all set to approach the future of TV measurement with respect to the paradigm which talks about what they see, what they think and what they do based on the things they saw. Understanding viewers mind frame is important so that marketers can make better decisions at every step in order to improve consumer journey and experience.

With the help of programmatic ad buying, marketers can reduce the potential waste of a large scale TV buy. They can monetize the resources by the programmer with a more creative approach by the same brand or a different one instead of throwing away impressions. The audience can be programmed at the same time. Brand managers can focus on a more holistic viewpoint of ‘brand life’ in different types of environments. Rather than one treatment playing during a hit reality show on a major network, an advertiser like Coke can go out and commission dozens of ads that target the full spectrum of their customers, hitting them at the right time on the right device with messaging geared exactly for a distinct audience segment.


According to the growing trends, it is safe to assume that GRP is here to stay. It doesn’t matter how the measurement is structured in the coming future or what changes take place with respect to technology and behavior of the viewers, digital mediums will continue to take the charge of the market. A win-win situation for everyone will be there when advertisers will have better efficiency and programmers can maximize the inventory value, and consumers will have a better viewing journey.

Do you still view TV? Have you experienced this shift as a viewer or a marketer? Share your experience with us!

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