Home Digital TV and Video Why The Nielsen-Roku Nuptials Could Shore Up More OTT Inventory

Why The Nielsen-Roku Nuptials Could Shore Up More OTT Inventory


SteveScottNielsen and Roku’s marriage for over-the-top (OTT) measurement, along with Roku’s development of a unique device identifier, may be a watershed moment for the connected TV ecosystem.

The agreement, announced last Thursday, will enable Roku’s publisher partners to measure the impact of ads on some 10 million set-top boxes by accessing Nielsen’s demographic data and its Digital Ad Ratings – formerly Nielsen Online Campaign Ratings – directly within Roku’s operating system.

In other words, publishers can stop jockeying around with SDKs to obtain credentials for OTT measurement and obtain a clearer read on ad impact straight from the Roku console.

“It’s something analogous to what Facebook solved for online ad measurement,” said Scott Rosenberg, VP of advertising for Roku. “It’s attractive to our platform because it helps publishers monetize more easily and it’s a huge win for Nielsen because they can tuck [demographic projections] right into the OS and avoid this massive mess of business development, integration and support work” with individual publishers.

Under Roku’s new relationship with Nielsen, a Roku app publisher must opt in to receive measurement support. In other words, the agreement will not automatically expose audiences for Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and other Roku apps. 

“We partner all day with publishers and content providers, so when we turn on a metering or measurement function, we make sure it’s done in partnership with our publishers, not in spite of them,” Rosenberg added.

Nielsen has sought ways to measure the total viewership of Netflix and Amazon streamed services, but it’s been an uphill climb. Netflix does not reveal audience numbers or support third-party audience measurement. As a workaround, Nielsen has experimented with using audio signature matching to identify the source of content viewed on a streaming service.

However, the measurement company is grooming its Total Audience products – content, TV and ad ratings across all devices, programs and channels – to solve this problem by year’s end.

Global President Steve Hasker said Nielsen’s cross-device TV measurement ambitions are geared toward both subscription and free, ad-supported content models.

“If I’m a TV network or digital video platform, I want to understand my audience no matter what the ad load,” Hasker said. “Regardless if it’s a linear feed or if I’ve dynamically inserted ads, when I go to go renew my [subscription video on demand] deals, you need to know how viewing [impacted] your ad-supported ecosystem, and how it affects affiliate fees” in order to manage licensing agreements with multichannel video programming distributors.

Measurement has been a perpetual challenge in bringing more demand to IP-connected environments. Part of the issue is that connected TV doesn’t have a scalable identifier, unlike the cookie-based, probabilistic and deterministic tracking methods that exist in mobile and desktop web today.


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Roku hopes to mitigate this issue by developing a resettable Roku ID for advertisers, which considers the cross-device demands of marketers, but still gives the consumer the ability to opt out of tracking and associated interest-based advertisements.

“When we set out to do this deal and embed ad tech into our OS, we were trying to build toward the TV ad platform of the future, and that had to embody both digital and TV principles,” Rosenberg said.

“You’ve got to have a platform where somebody can buy on Nielsen demos, but you also don’t want to forgo digital advantages like interactivity, addressability, programmatic,” he added. “The plumbing is there to do programmatic on our platform and we’re starting to put data in play to enable it.”

Tod Sacerdoti, CEO of video exchange and marketplace BrightRoll, said the Nielsen/Roku alliance could be a significant driver for more connected TV supply in the exchange-based environment, although Rosenberg pointed out publishers are initially interested in building new audiences cross-screen and ensuring the demand is first there before they consider diving into programmatic.

“The way you get supply is more large video publishers [supporting] connected devices and executing programmatically,” Sacerdoti said. “I do think Nielsen DAR [Digital Ad Ratings] will rapidly increase the likelihood they will participate in programmatic.”


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