Did Snapchat Misrepresent the Health of Traditional TV in its S1?

Pivotal Research pointed out some interesting weaknesses Snap Inc.’s IPO filing in terms of how it presented ‘a partial picture’ of TV viewing trends. Senior analyst Brian Wieser noted that when Snap’s S1 referred to Nielsen’s TV viewing data for 18-24 year olds provided by Nielsen, it focused only on TV consumption that was viewed on TV sets, meaning that they excluded huge swathes of digital consumption of ‘TV content’.

When discussing shifting media consumption trends among young adults, Snap’s filing refers to Nielsen data that states how “people between the ages of 18 and 24 spent 35 percent less time watching traditional TV in an average month during the second quarter of 2016 compared to the second quarter of 2010.” However, Wieser noted that whilst the 35 percent figure is accurate, the definition of TV on which the decline is based excludes most consumption of video content through VOD, video game consoles, over-the-top devices, on laptops, desktops, tablets and other mobile devices if they are not attached to television sets.

Had Snap taken a more comprehensive “apples-to-apples” measure would show flatter trends for TV consumption among this age group. “We continue to believe that advertisers looking to spend money on TV to reach young audiences will continue to work with traditional media owners, alongside emerging ones with scale (such as YouTube in particular, and Snap as well) in pursuit of this goal,” added Wieser.

When you include these other platforms, Wieser says that viewing has likely risen slightly across all age groups over the past six years, although if you exclude short-form content, he says overall consumption levels are “probably closer to flat across most populations when we compare comprehensive data for any given age group vs. that same age group in prior years”.

Another point that Pivotal flag up is how it’s possible to identify completely different sets of viewing habits even within the various age brackets. For example, within the 18-24 year-old range, 24 year-olds consumed 3.7 hours of time with TV daily during 2016, vs. 2.7 hours per day for 18 year olds, a 38 percent gap within just a six year age difference. As Wieser notes, “While some of the gap is undoubtedly based on the emergence of new media technologies and services, life-stage issues likely account for the bulk of the difference, which historically amounted to more like a 25% gap in prior years.”


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