The growing multiplicity of video consumption devices, such as tablets, smart TVs and gaming consoles, presents a challenge for audience researchers seeking to measure viewership for marketing purposes, a new study has revealed.
"Both the buy and sell sides have the expectation, and rightly so, that all devices on which tuning occurs – not just traditional television sets – be measured and ultimately used as ratings currency," said Patricia Liguori, senior vice president of research & electronic measurement at the ABC Owned Television Stations and chair of the Council for Research Excellence (CRE) Return Path Measurement Committee.
She added: "We knew we had a major challenge merely in quantifying the penetration levels of the various devices, but that is only the tip of the measurement iceberg."
The research, conducted by One Touch Intelligence (OTI) for the CRE, suggests the potential for rapid transformation of the device marketplace. Currently, the OTI report notes that the average national penetration of emerging media devices is led by gaming consoles at 56%, followed by DVRs at 44%, Smart TVs and Blu-ray players at a combined 22%, tablets – by all accounts a rapidly growing segment – at 14%, and over-the-top (OTT) set-top boxes (STBs) at 11%.
OTT STBs show the least promise of growth and may even be rendered largely obsolete as consumers gravitate toward gaming consoles and smart TVs. But fewer than half of all smart TVs and Blu-ray players are currently connected to the Internet, thereby precluding access to apps and MVPD content specifically designed for use on these devices.
However, smart TV popularity may surge if broadband penetration increases substantially, video operators make their full channel line-ups available for these devices or if content storage – currently not available on smart TVs – increasingly moves to the cloud.
An aggressive rollout by pay-TV network operators of the newer network DVRs, where storage is transferred from the DVR's hard drive to the cloud – would not only boost smart TV penetration, but also would drive DVR penetration from its current level of 44% to effectively match the same penetration as digital set-top boxes.
Despite the broad array of devices, there are two distinct methods of transporting video signals to end users: via the STBs of multichannel video programme distributors, or via IP from servers to users' devices. The industry requires understanding of how the new delivery mechanisms operate, including the video transport methods, in order to determine where along the transmission path measurement can occur, CRE noted.
The potential for increased and shifting use of these various transmission devices raises the stakes for understanding how those devices are used in practice, the report indicates. Regarding smart TVs, for example, the OTI report notes that the key stats to follow include the number that are actually hooked up to the Internet, any survey data from those connected TVs of how much viewers are watching and what content they are watching.
"For the audience researcher, this avalanche of devices can be daunting," Liguori said, "Only with information, such as device penetration by DMA and number of devices per household, can researchers more rapidly guide the development, deployment and adoption of alternative electronic measurement that is so desperately sought by our industry."