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TV Measurement Goes Big (Data)

Couple watching TV and eating popcorn.

The TV landscape is in the midst of a revolution. Connected media devices are becoming the default way consumers watch their favorite content; last year, US adults spent more time watching digital video than traditional TV, for the first time ever. And with 52% of digital viewing time happening on a connected TV device in 2023, the biggest screen in the home is gaining new prominence.

As consumers and brands alike embrace data-driven TV via increased viewing time and advertising spend, television is becoming an audience-based ad medium, triggering several fundamental shifts in how it’s measured: 

1. The days of a single TV measurement currency are over.  There are many alternative TV measurement providers vying for a piece of the pie, but the solutions they offer — as well as new, audience-based approaches from incumbent measurement companies — need further development to deliver the cross-platform, audience-based measurement and attribution advertisers and publishers demand.

2. It’s ad measurement that matters, not program ratings.  In advanced TV, ads no longer must tie to specific programs or dayparts, and are increasingly targeted to individuals and households. This change makes ratings incidental as in-target impressions and reach become the basis for valuing TV ad placements. 

3. User login data is no longer the gold standard for data-driven TV targeting and measurement. Concerns about password sharing and the havoc it wreaks on streaming targeting and measurement are coming to a head. With identity resolution capable of separating households erroneously combined due to password sharing, identity services are poised to play a larger role in untangling households — even when user registration data is available.

Tuning into the future

As TV transitions to a data-driven, audience-based medium, conversations around the future of TV measurement are turning to the quality of identity and audience data. The most meaningful discussions about how we move forward will be anchored in four emerging truths: 

1. Coverage, precision and freshness are the new data quality indicators. Addressable TV requires big data to fuel one-to-one targeting and impression-level decisioning. While the TV industry struggles to balance a sample-based measurement paradigm while embracing one grounded in data science, sophisticated advertisers and media companies are probing the quality of connections between people, households and devices, and questioning the shelf life of data — especially identity data — in regard to data currency and graph refresh rates. 

2. TV measurement is now a team sport. TV networks and advertisers recognize legacy measurement company strengths related to analysis and reporting don’t necessarily translate to competencies in big data management and identity resolution. Both sets of capabilities are necessary to deliver valid, actionable TV measurement. The result will be a disambiguated TV measurement process where frontline measurement providers partner with companies that have expertise in identity and data management. These partnerships will be essential to deliver accurate measurement with the granularity and speed required to drive rapid impression-level decisioning. 

3. Cross-platform, people-based measurement and attribution is the North Star the industry is chasing.  Despite the hype, and while the data and technology exist, these capabilities are still in early stages. As advertisers demand them, expect measurement change to shift into high gear. Getting identity right will be essential.  

4. Identity is the engine that will power the advanced TV ad ecosystem — across measurement and targeting. The precise reconciliation of devices to people and households at scale is a top challenge for both advanced TV targeting and measurement — making identity key to achieving both. As identity cements itself as the backbone of data-driven TV, identity-based systems will combine people-based targeting and measurement in a single data stack. Advanced TV advertisers will demand highly interoperable, widely connected identity solutions to enable in-campaign optimization at a granular level across a fragmented ecosystem.

Identity is key

The emerging TV ecosystem is highly data-driven. It depends on large, high-fidelity identity and attribute datasets and advanced data science to drive precise, people-based targeting at scale. That means the new measurement must provide granular, people-based insights. In addition, measurement solutions must be compatible with disparate datasets and embedded in technology that connects across a fragmented ecosystem. These features are not nice-to-haves but essential for measurement to be truly actionable in a world defined by near real-time, impression-level decisioning. 


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