By Amy Mitchell, Vice President, Media Director
It’s widely known that TV viewership is evolving. Instead of being consumed primarily in your living room whilst cozied up on the sofa in your jammies, TV programs are now being consumed across multiple devices, any time, any place, via Netflix on an iPad while on a road trip with the family, your smartphone while your spouse/significant other is trying on clothes at a department store or catching a quick YouTube video (or four or five) on your desktop while on your lunch break.
With this evolution mind, Nielsen, the company that measures TV viewership, therefore aiding in the monetization of the commercial spots therein, is rolling out Extended Screen Ratings. The purpose of ESR is to consider all of these various and sundry points of viewership and provide one single source of measurement, including gross rating points, reach and frequency.
Nielsen has been playing around with this methodology for a couple of years, but it very recently announced that by September, when the new fall TV season kicks off, it plans to have new hardware and software in place in nearly 23,000 sample homes across the U.S. The new measurement system will record viewership from not only homes that have hardwired cabled, satellite and over-the-air service, but devices that deliver programming via streaming services such as Amazon and Netflix.
Nielsen will also monitor from what device the programming was delivered. TV-enabled game systems such as PlayStation and Xbox will also be considered, but Nielsen indicates that metrics from these devices will be more heavily factored in at a later date.
I have not been able to locate a schedule outlining when ESR will be available across the country, but I’d imagine it’ll roll out much like radio’s Portable People Meters did with Arbitron: A few top designated market areas will make the shift first, followed by waves of installations in other markets, until all 200+ DMAs are operating with the same currency. At the rate at which TV viewership is being consumed on alternative devices, I’d guess that Nielsen is endeavoring to roll this new system out sooner rather than later. How soon, we’re just not certain yet.
The comprehensive scope of how ESR might change the TV buying landscape is yet to be seen, but I anticipate a couple of things might happen:
- Product placement will garner more attention and importance. Since a fair amount of folks now routinely DVR their favorite programs and then view them at a later date while fast forwarding through the commercials — or, they simply stream them via services like Netflix — we might see increased integration of products into the TV programs themselves; e.g., a Papa John’s pizza being consumed by Walden and what’s-his-face on “Two and a Half Men,” a bottle of Gain laundry detergent sitting on a countertop in “Mike & Molly,” “Scandal’s” main character driving the latest and greatest Acura — you get the picture.The idea here is that viewers will probably/hopefully notice the product being featured in their favored program, therefore lending credibility and desirability to said product, and the advertising is able to escape the throes of the evil fast forward button.
- Pre-roll video will become a coveted place of prominence for advertisers. Free TV streaming services such as Hulu rely on ad dollars to keep the lights on. For example, before the latest episode of “Sons of Anarchy” loads, I’m served a 30-second spot, which cannot be skipped.In addition to the pre-roll spots, Hulu also offers companion banners, selection window slates and other ad options. These prominent, “un-skippable” spots are a great way to get your message in front viewers, and since these streaming services offer robust targeting options, you’re assured you’re reaching the right viewers.
- Since we’ll be able to see from which devices viewers are watching which programs, we’ll see more specific device targeting. For example, if we learn that more viewers watch “American Idol” via their Xbox than they do on their desktop, we’ll see ads targeted specifically to Xboxes. If we learn that more viewers are watching “Modern Family” via the ABC app on their iPad, we might see ads shift there. The possibilities are endless as we continue to track, measure and chase the ever-fragmented, scattered consumer.