The Future Of The TV Business Begins And Ends With Measurement


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On TV And Video” is a column exploring opportunities and challenges in programmatic TV and video.

Column is written by Tim Ware, vice president of advanced television at Tremor Video.

Programmatic TV is among the most highly debated subjects in the media business and perhaps the best example of true convergence we’ve encountered as an industry to date. The turn of events over the past couple of years has made this once aspirational concept an emerging reality.

From a digital purist’s perspective, programmatic conveys real-time bidding and delivery of ads, which legacy linear television has not fully embraced for technical and business reasons. Why would the old television business disrupt the status quo? For decades the linear television ad marketplace has been an insulated and favorable safe haven.

Let’s face it, digital ad purists: While it’s been hard and rewarding work to “evolutionize” the media landscape, the reality is that when it comes to programmatic TV, the industry is about to confront its biggest obstacle.

From a television purist’s perspective, TV doesn’t need programmatic solutions. It’s just a myth that will create sales channel conflict and cheapen the value of what is an extremely limited source of inventory. Old media companies have TV sales teams who are doing quite well selling ads the old-fashioned way. They are resistant to introducing data-driven advertising beyond basic demographic information based on Nielsen ratings, with a possibility of a secondary guarantee.

While both points of view may be defensible, I believe neither acknowledges the inherent value in programmatic TV.

Measurement Follies

The audience measurement conundrum may be hitting an all-time low. Critics of Nielsen argue the company has yet to fully adapt to the digital age, and the slow rollout of Total Audience Measurement with a woefully small panel of 100,000 households remains the primary currency for a multibillion-dollar business.

Even Rentrak, the relatively new kid on the block that was purchased by comScore to create a substantially higher sample of set-top box viewership, has competitors claiming their set-top box footprint is not representative of the US geographic footprint.

Then, of course, the automatic content recognition companies are introducing new alternative measurement methods reliant on audio and/or video fingerprints that are captured via smart TV chips or mobile devices. They offer impactful targeting and viewership data collection tactics, but marketplace acceptance is still pending and the privacy police are on high alert.

Finally, while access to set-top box data is the marketer’s dream, this information will probably never be shared broadly, with exception of campaign data. Even if shared, the privacy concerns would kill any wide-scale use of this actual viewership data.

The bottom line is the future of the TV business begins and ends with measurement. Attribution and ROI are still the white whale we are all pursuing and probably one of the most significant outcomes of this evolution. So let’s talk about why programmatic TV is becoming a reality.

The Realities Of Programmatic TV

Programmatic TV is not yet real-time nor automated, but in its current iteration there is a great deal of data available that is gold for marketers. This data and recent innovations can inform marketers in record time about the best buy and most efficient line items within TV buys. While programmatic TV may have been a myth, it’s now becoming a necessary reality driven by accountability from every brand that is facing competition, locally, globally and from unparalleled innovation.

How we label programmatic TV in its current state isn’t agreed upon yet, but it’s much more desirable then the old Nielsen measurement methodology. I’m far more encouraged about the onset of multiple data points to make informed TV buying and selling decisions compared to the tools available when I started in the industry 25 years ago.