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We Need New Rules To Measure Media as Viewers Embrace Streaming

Adonis Hoffman
Guest blog author Adonis Hoffman. (Image credit: Future)

In August, we watched our favorite programs, movies and events over streaming platforms in greater numbers than on regular broadcast or cable TV. While overall viewership of broadcast and cable was down 10% on average, streaming on Netflix, YouTube, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, Disney Plus and HBO Max, among others, accounted for over 35% of total viewing.

The segue from broadcast and cable to streaming is in full swing, as recent data from Nielsen’s Gauge suggests. Advertisers, brands, sports leagues and event producers are keenly aware of this shift and are adjusting their investments accordingly. Reliable data points out that over $781 billion will be spent globally on advertising in 2022. In the coming years, more and more of these dollars will go to streaming platforms.

If the Emmys are any indication of popularity and future profit, we can understand how HBO, Netflix, Hulu, Apple, Disney and Prime combined for a total of 23 primetime awards. In the first NFL all-digital package, Amazon paid $1 billion per year to stream Thursday Night Football through 2033. And that’s on top of the $11 billion it spent on streaming video and content the year before for more than 200 million Prime members. Although watching football over streaming takes some adjustment, it's hard to blame the NFL for blitzing the bank.

In fact, we should expect more of these kinds of deals in the future. As audiences follow the content across every platform, the old rules for measuring media no longer apply. With systemic changes in consumer viewing, there have to be systemic changes in measuring audiences as well. Since viewing occurs across platforms, so too should measurement systems. Advertisers — and indeed viewers — deserve nothing less.

The conventional methods of audience measurement are in transition. Industry incumbents Nielsen and Comscore are awaiting accreditation from the Media Rating Council and planning to launch new products. Upstart measurement firms are experimenting with novel, untested methods. Meanwhile, advertisers, networks, broadcasters, publishers and brands crave stability, predictability and reliability in measuring what is being seen by tens of millions of viewers.

Adonis Hoffman

Guest blog author Adonis Hoffman is an executive at The Advisory Counsel LLC.  He previously served as senior legal adviser to FCC commissioner Mignon Clyburn , senior VP at the American Association of Advertising Agencies and Adjunct Professor of Communication, Culture & Technology at Georgetown University. His report can also be found here.

Arun Kumar, chief data and marketing technology officer for the advertising giant Interpublic Group, recently said, “It’s hard enough to measure some of these new devices and the new data sets that are flowing through them, but it becomes even harder if you don't have consistent standards.”

With billions of dollars at stake, it is a real problem with market risks and ramifications.

But hope springs eternal. After reviewing the options, I believe the solution may be found in a recently released special report titled, “The New Rules of Media Measurement (opens in new tab).”

According to the Media Institute report, the advertising and media ecosystem needs three things now: (1) a uniform currency; (2) a strong self-regulatory regime; and (3) an industry-agreed set of principles for measurement.

First, there needs to be a reliable currency to buy and sell advertising. There should be a uniform system to measure everyone no matter where or how they happen to consume media. And there should be an independent, objective umpire to interpret and enforce the rules of the game.

Second, we cannot overstate the significant role and responsibility of the Media Rating Council (MRC (opens in new tab)) as the implacable cornerstone of the media and advertising ecosystem. Maintaining a fully empowered MRC is essential to upholding the highest ethical and performance standards.

Third, the industry must mutually agree on a few basic principles that should be intrinsic for any media measurement system. Here are 12 attributes that should be immediately adopted: accountable, independent, comprehensive, inclusive and representative, transparent, consistent, adaptable, privacy-compliant, cross-platform, uniform, efficient and accurate.

If the movement for reliable media measurement is to progress, these principles may be the keys to success. ■

(c) 2022  Adonis E. Hoffman