Without Equivalized Metrics Across TV, CTV And OTT, Publishers Are Flying Blind

On TV & Video” is a column exploring opportunities and challenges in advanced TV and video. 

Today’s column is by Data ImpacX CEO Joan FitzGerald. 

Netflix’s recent announcement that it will report top programs using a minutes-based metric is welcome news. The update will be game-changing for publishers and studios that require apples-to-apples comparisons for every series and episode across linear TV and digital distribution end points. 

Unfortunately, the metrics challenge goes well beyond Netflix, with distribution partners and platforms providing an array of non-standard performance metrics. Publishers want to report performance using the most comprehensive data available, including their own first-party data from apps and websites, second-party data from their non-linear distribution partners and platforms, and third-party linear TV data from independent measurement services. First-party and second-party data has the advantage of being a true census view of activity, but the lack of equivalized metrics with linear TV makes it difficult or even impossible to use. 

For one thing, the lack of equivalized metrics makes it almost impossible for publishers to get the visibility they need into performance, and the monetization trade-offs across ad-supported linear TV, ad-supported digital and subscription-based business models. That’s changing fast, as providers step up their game to combine first-, second-, and third-party data and transform it into equivalized metrics.

But the metrics challenge gets even steeper as video consumption becomes more fragmented. The acronyms say it all: Consumers can choose from AVOD, SVOD, VOD, MVPD, vMVPD, CTT, OTT, FAST, DTC, linear TV, and DVR to watch content. The proliferation of business models adds to the complexity, too. Revenue from ad sales, ad sales revenue share, subscription fees or per-subscriber fees all factor into the return on investment.

Michael McGuire, SVP, Management Science Associates, put it to me like this: “Fragmented viewing among consumers means increasingly complex decisions about windowing, scheduling and monetization for publishers. Understanding the trade-offs and making the right decisions requires standardized, comparable metrics across all three data sources: first-party publisher data, second-party platform data and third-party linear TV data.”

Developing equivalized minutes

There are many business questions that publishers need to ask as they try to optimize viewing in an increasingly complex distribution ecosystem.

Which distribution partners reach certain audiences? How quickly does viewing build after a title is released? How should I change the distribution window so my titles are available on the right platform at the right time? Should I make more content available? How much is my series worth to each distribution partner?

Answering these questions requires transforming the metrics that owned apps and distribution partners provide into equivalized minutes and demographics. But creating this equivalized minutes metric requires a series of steps. 

First, master data matching ensures that the title from the distribution partner matches the publisher’s internal data dictionary. That sounds simple, but the reality is that each distributor has its own dictionary, meaning that series titles, episode names, and numbers will typically not match. 

Then, a series of methodology steps must account for the platform, the device type, the monetization model, demographics and the number of people viewing. 

Once the matching and methodology processes are complete, publishers can rely on the equivalized minutes metric to measure and compare audience delivery across linear and digital video platforms and partners. When revenue and cost data are overlaid on the minutes metrics, publishers have a clear view to the performance of each distribution end point in delivering audiences, as well as the ROI from each distribution strategy.

The potential of equivalization

With equivalized metrics, publishers can assess the success of their own AVOD, SVOD and FAST strategies compared with partner distribution models. And they can make data-based decisions on upcoming content and partnerships. For example, while one distribution partner may deliver an audience for a short list of top-performing titles, another may deliver across a longer tail. Simply put, audience delivery plays a huge role in optimizing distribution strategy. 

Equivalized metrics are the foundation for measuring ad impressions and creating cross-platform currencies to measure the unduplicated reach of an advertising campaign.   

Combined with revenue and costs, publishers have unprecedented ability to optimize. Without equivalized metrics, however, they’ll continue to chase the video distribution wave instead of riding it.

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