In 1995 in Bloomington, Indiana, a small public access program called Rox started a viewing revolution by becoming the first TV series to be distributed on the internet. By the early 2000’s streaming services such as YouTube were continuing to change consumers viewing habits by offering endless content that was able to be viewed on demand. Fast forward to the current state of viewership and we see consumers flooded with endless video on demand options. TV viewers are no longer bound to watch a program when it airs or wait for re-runs. They have the ability to record it on their DVR, download it, stream it, and typically they can do many of those things from a few different services. In a study by eMarketer, they project that by 2019 60.5% or 200.8 million Americans will be using Connected TVs that have the ability to stream video on demand (VOD) services, an increase of 43% from 2015. The countless options from content providers is making it more difficult than ever for networks to track their actual viewership and report those numbers to their advertisers. We continue to see TV ratings decline and online streaming content rising, but how do we measure them as an apples to apples comparison? The industry is striving for a way to quantify the trends it is seeing and to be able to compare these two similar but different media vehicles so we are looking to our partners who have provided us the measurements we have needed in the past.
The first player is Nielsen. Nielsen has long been touted as the authority in TV ratings measurement, and in a world where competition tends to be key for advancement, they have had little to no competition to this point. Due to the lack of competition they have been criticized at moving at a slower pace than most people in the industry would like when rolling out new products; one of which was their Total Audience Measurement. In 2015, however, Nielsen started feeling some heat when ComScore, an MRC accredited Digital Ad Ratings service acquired Rentrak, a media measurement company that tracks video viewing. After about two years of development and anticipation, Nielsen released its Total Audience Measurement in December of 2015, notably weeks after the announcement of the ComScore/Rentrak merger. Total Audience Measurement is a single-sourced platform that accounts for viewing across TV, DVR, VOD, connected devices such as Roku, Apple TV and XBOX, mobile, PC and tablets (wearables such as Apple Watches are not included in this platform).
ComScore, who is one of the most respected digital measurement tools in the industry, now has access to TV ratings through its merger with Rentrak and plans to challenge Nielsen’s offerings. ComScore’s new cross-platform measurement tool will include TV, over the top services and digital viewing. The surveys will be available on a monthly bases. ComScore will roll out the platform in April, just in time for the network’s upfronts. ComScore is also increasing their total home panel that is used to collect data to 300,000 by the end of 2016. While Nielsen’s product is the only one currently available, ComScore’s new tool does challenge Nielsen and will hopefully lead to better overall measurement tools for content viewing.