This week at the Screen Forever conference there was much discussion, in several moderated sessions, about the accuracy of the OzTAM panel and the desire to count views on tablets, phones and catch-up services.
TEN CEO Hamish McLennan cited the example of The Bachelor.
“We have as many people on any given week watching it on TenPlay as they are on terrestrial broadcasting, which is good and bad for us because we can’t monetise the show on digital the way we can on terrestrial,” he said.
“The market was very quick to say The Bachelor has only been a moderate success. But if you take the 800,000 people who watched it last week on linear TV and the 820,000 I think it is on TenPlay, together with catch-up service in the week, you’re looking at 1.8m odd. Which is extrordinary.
“So it’s an absolute smash but we’ve got to redefine how we judge these shows.”
Asked whether TEN was disadvantaged by having a younger audience who may not have a landline phone (the traditional method for sending data between households and ratings service provider Nielsen TAM), he was careful with his words.
“Whenever I talk about that it looks like I’m being defensive because our ratings aren’t where (they need to be),” he said. “But I would just pull it back to looking at TenPlay it’s not reflected in OzTAM. The very fact that so many people are consuming premium content, and doing it in different ways, we need a more robust measurement system so that we can measure and monetise it.”
McLennan’s final sentence is bold, given that TEN is a one-third shareholder in OzTAM along with Seven and Nine.
It should also be pointed out OzTAM does indeed sample ‘mobile households’ too.
But not everybody is in agreement about video plays, either in definitions or measurement methodology, which is part of the problem about why they aren’t yet in the OzTAM panel survey.
Doug Peiffer, CEO of OzTAM later noted, “Those numbers are usually Stream Starts. That’s when you go into the player and you start viewing something, that counts as a viewer. It’s a Start. If you come to the next Pre-Roll, that’s another Start. You Start the content, Stop the content. That accumulates, it’s not a new viewer or a unique viewer. That number needs to be discounted and that’s what we’re working on.”
John Grono, CEO of Gap Research representing advertisers, agreed with Peiffer.
“Think of it like this: a stream is an opportunity to serve an ad, so me as a media buyer is very interested. But as a Broadcaster, a Stream is not equivalent to the OzTAM ratings. It’s nowhere near it,” he said.
“Every time you serve an ad there’s another stream break, so when Doug talks about 2 million people he actually means the average minute of that programme was 2 million. Sometimes 1.8m, sometimes 2.2m -but the average is 2m. Streams is nothing like it.
“It’s an extremely misleading statistic in my humble opinion.”
Streams can include up to 5 Starts in a one hour programme, distorting the number of actual viewers who may be watching.
Lisa Walsh, Head of Audience Research, ABC TV, spoke favourably of the current system but was looking for improvements.
“The TV ratings are still by far and away the best measure of television content and far and away capture the vast majority. Most particularly for adult content. We think there is probably a larger, discreet children’s audience viewing increasing amounts of content through tablet devices,” she said.
‘We’re blessed in this country, (OzTAM is) very robust. But we’re eager and working with Doug and other industry partners to include that bigger universe that’s out there and is growing, and how to include that.
“We’d like you to include Program Plays as People,” she told Peiffer.
While television sets are large, static appliances, the mobility of tablets and phones creates new challenges. It’s impractical to attach an iPad or iPhone to a People Meter. And with trying to monitor data in terms of Plays, there is still the problem of working out the demographics of the viewer, especially when devices are shared in households.
“We’re heading from a hardware solution to a software solution,” Peiffer explained. “Lisa talked about the data she gets back at the station. Hamish from Channel TEN talked about it. Everyone has data. So what we’re working on in the industry is to pull all the data together and harmonise it and put out official reports. That’s what we’re working on at the moment. But the tricky part is who do we assign it to?”
John Grono agreed: “We know you might have watched a video in one particular app and then you watch it again in another app, you count as two completely different people. So all of a sudden you see the audiences being inflated again and again and again.
“Who watched on television, who watched on a smart phone, who watched on an iPad? Who watched at work? It’s about that de-duplication of those numbers. It’s a huge black box of mathematical mumbo jumbo -which I actually love- but that’s what we’re trying to build. Trying to get that quantum right. If we don’t get the quantum right we’re stuffed.
“The first thing we have to do is make sure the numbers are comparable. The word ‘harmonise’ was used. So we have a lot of work to do. The problem is this horse has already left the stable and it’s bolting down at Caulfield. How do you stop it?”
There was also discussion over the drop of numbers in viewers from 9:30pm. Do we all retire early these days? Not necessarily.
“The number of people sitting on the couch together watching TV has gone down to 1, except for the top rating shows like X Factor and Talent and they’ve got more people. They’re rating big because they’ve got more people in front of the TV set. The more niche a programme goes, the less people are sitting in front of the TV,” Doug Peiffer explained.
He also elaborated on the way numbers are tallied, reminding us that Overnight ratings include Live and As Live numbers -the number of viewers who watch content on the same night it broadcasts. If a viewer watches one 8pm show then records another, but watches it at 9:30, the data shows both figures as an 8pm view.
“The Live ratings start to drop at 8:30 or 9:30 because you’re shifting the content. So that’s why the 9:30 programmes are falling back a little bit. Because people are shifting the data, shifting the evening and shuffling things,” he said.
“If you have 2 big competing programmes on then you’ll get that shifting. That takes the Live down later in the evening.”
Lastly, Peiffer was asked why OzTAM does not include Regional audiences with 5 City Metro numbers.
Regional viewers are measured separately by RegionalTAM (owned by Regional broadcasters) and there is some cross-over in some geographic areas.
“Technically there are some math reasons why you can’t do it. But I think we’re heading towards a national panel eventually when the Reach Rules change and consolidation happens in the marketplace.”