Measurement for years now has been picked out as a key area of improvement for OTT, particularly in Europe, but how much progress is actually being made? Here Massimo de Magistris, VP, head of FreeWheel Markets International at FreeWheel, argues why the US model can’t easily be replicated in Europe, and looks at how quickly progress is being made in European markets.
The over-the-top (OTT) market is accelerating and is expected to reach almost €300 billion globally by 2025. While for advertisers, this growth brings a wealth of opportunity to target highly-engaged audiences with precise and relevant messaging, there are still operational and technical hurdles to overcome, specifically around achieving measurement capabilities and metrics that are comparable with linear TV. OTT marries the best of linear TV and digital video, but it doesn’t necessarily fit with the measurement frameworks used by either.
While a single TV and video ad campaign can span multiple viewing types such as linear, set-top-box video on demand (STB VOD), connected TV (CTV) and OTT, these are largely measured in siloes, with each one relying on different metrics. Ultimately advertisers want to be able to assess their total TV reach across both linear and digital, determine frequency, and link outcomes to privacy-compliant, household-level data, through transparent reporting. The insights produced can then be used to optimise campaigns.
The US market advances towards on-target measurement
Some progress is being made in bringing digital measurement in line with linear TV through developments such as Nielsen’s Digital Ad Ratings. This sophisticated product enables cross-screen measurement and evaluation of digital channels, delivering TV-comparable metrics such as reach, frequency and gross rating points (GRPs).
In the US, where linear TV is largely measured using Nielsen ratings, the Digital Ad Ratings product has been extended, resulting in Nielsen Total Ad Rating. This product measures the reach of campaigns across linear TV and digital, revealing which viewers saw an ad on television, on a mobile device or on a computer, as well which ones viewed the ad via a combination of those platforms.
In January 2019 Nielsen added OTT viewing to its Total Ad Ratings product, allowing advertisers to measure the cross-platform, de-duplicated reach of their campaigns more effectively. In the relatively mature OTT market of the US, a number of solutions are being developed to support on-target measurement using these ratings.
Complexity in Europe presents measurement barriers
Unfortunately, replicating US measurement solutions for implementation across Europe is problematic due to the vast differences between countries and markets. Each country has specific content delivery norms and protocols, creating a complex web of satellite, cable, DNS and IPTV providers.
Linear TV is measured by a number of different companies such as BARB in the UK, Kantar in Spain, and GfK in Italy. Digital measurement is equally fragmented with Nielsen, ComScore, Meetrics, and MédiaMétrie all stronger in some markets than in others. The European Video Measurement Matrix, put together by the FreeWheel Council for Premium Video Europe, provides an insight into the vastly differing capabilities and methodologies of audience and verification measurement providers across the continent.
Despite this complexity, there are various developments in Europe that are driving OTT measurement forward. These include cross-platform campaign ratings (XCR) from Médiamétrie and NetRatings, which measure TV and web complementarity. The measurement tool is used to evaluate the performance of campaigns that span linear TV and digital, measuring the contribution of each to campaign performance in terms of coverage, repetition, placement and distribution of contacts.
Adoption on the Hybrid broadcast broadband TV (HbbTV) specification across Europe should also make OTT delivery and measurement simpler in the long term. But while HbbTV is in regular operation in some countries, it is still only under consideration in places such as Belgium and Portugal, and its deployment varies greatly from one market to the next, meaning this will take time to have an impact.
Collaboration on measurement is the way forward
To establish measurement capabilities that work within the unique parameters of the European region, media companies and advertisers need to work closely with specialist providers who understand these differences. The market needs to shift towards holistic measurement where a complete view of performance across all TV and video environments is facilitated by blending high-quality data from multiple sources. At this stage developing that holistic view should be less about competition, and more about developing best practices across the region and finding solutions to the measurement challenge, so collaboration between advertisers, broadcasters, tech providers and measurement companies is vital.
By combining the best of linear TV and digital video, OTT provides an exciting opportunity for advertisers to reach engaged audiences, but only if the industry collaborates to find the missing ingredient, building on existing developments to deliver effective, holistic solutions to total TV measurement.