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How ACR Can Solve CTV’s Measurement Issues

"The solution may come from following the path that digital advertising measurement took, and for good reason – digital media has overtaken TV in terms of investment from advertisers." -Dallas Lawrence, Samba TV 

Earlier this year, Netflix shared its strong fourth quarter earnings, well ahead of the expectations that analysts had for the streaming giant. The company paired its strong numbers with an announcement of a change as well: Netflix will now measure a programming view whenever someone watches at least two minutes of the content.

The company’s previous policy counted a view only when 70% of the content was streamed, so needless to say this new form has affected how the company counts its audience. Netflix itself said that the new metric shows audience reach is one-third higher, compared to the previous method.

Netflix’s measurement decision shows just how hard it is to find clear cut numbers in the streaming space. Subscriber counts and revenue growth are irrefutable numbers for public companies, but shifting audience metrics can create uncertainty and headaches for the brands and advertisers that use TV to get their message out to their consumers. If every streaming service uses a different viewership metric, it makes it very difficult to determine how many people are watching what. In the modern data-driven advertising landscape, that matters, even with viewership for ad-free subscription content like Netflix and Disney+.

Streaming was already showing the cracks in TV viewership, but moves like this show there is greater need for a single source of truth than ever before. Smaller, limited panels are no longer effective, and media planners, marketers and strategists need current tools to determine if their TV dollars are effective.

The solution may come from following the path that digital advertising measurement took, and for good reason – digital media has overtaken TV in terms of investment from advertisers. The digital realm doesn’t rely on small paid panels to measure ad exposure, but instead leverages deep data sets to explain who saw an ad, where it ran, and ultimately, if it was effective.

Connected TV finally opens the door for a similar view of ad effectiveness and actual audience reach across the biggest screen in our lives. Today, there’s a thriving marketplace of companies that have far more viewership data than legacy TV measurement models of the past. Set-top box data and video automatic content recognition (ACR) data reveal the exact content on the screen. Set-top boxes, of course, are restricted to cable subscribers and tell us little about viewers' behaviors outside of traditional TV, as well as audiences that have cut the cord completely.

This makes ACR a key technology for measuring true viewership. Rather than rely on data from the streaming services themselves, which as we saw with Netflix can be adjusted in a multitude of varying ways, brand advertisers can instead rely on ACR-powered metrics to measure viewership across the board, as well as their ad campaign success. It provides the kind of unbiased and scaled source of truth marketers have come to expect from their digital buys.

This is crucial, because even as TV is surpassed by digital in terms of ad spend, TV still remains an important channel, especially when it's included in attribution models alongside digital campaigns. Advertisers that have a complete picture of their audience across screens will develop the winning measurement models, and with them, the winning campaigns.

Samba TV is a leader in global TV data and analytics.