Emily Tan
Oct 23, 2013

Return-path data may fill gaps in pay-TV audience measurement: CASBAA Convention

HONG KONG – While measurement based on RPD (return path data) provided by set-top boxes may not be the perfect audience measurement tool, as it “measures the device, not the people”, it may help fill gaps left by more traditional methods.

(L-R) Miller, Burfitt, Robles, Moreton and Lee
(L-R) Miller, Burfitt, Robles, Moreton and Lee

Traditional methods of audience measurement opt for broad, evenly distributed, sampling, which often fails to measure the higher income groups that make up Pay TV's main audiences and can also underestimate viewer numbers, especially for niche programming.

“These methods don't often reflect Pay TV's penetration in the market among those of higher disposable income and so underestimates our presence in the market,” said Janice Lee, MD of TV and New Media at PCCW. “These measurements also don't reflect the quality of our audience. We hope RPD will address that.”

Lee was speaking during a panel session today at the CASBAA 2013 Convention, which is being held at the Grand Hyatt in Hong Kong. Her fellow panelists were Nick Burfitt, global director, Kantar Media Audiences; Henry Robles, research director, audience research and analysis, NBCUniversal; and Paul Moreton, head of trading and accountability, Asia-Pacific, Omnicom Media Group. The panel was moderated by Matthew Miller, online editor of Campaign Asia-Pacific.

The panel discussed the merits of collecting subscriber behaviour data via set-top boxes as a by-product of consumer subscriptions to IPTV. This data set, referred to as RPD, can be either voluntary or involuntary, but for advertiser and agency purposes it is better for the information to be provided on an opt-in basis, said OMG's Moreton. “Opt-in data builds stronger relationships with users and helps navigate privacy requirements,” he said.

Volunteered data will also allow researchers to take the information sent in by devices on what is being watched when and where, and correlate it with the 'who', explained Kantar's Burfitt. “We have an algorithm, and if we have the opt-in data on the composition of a household, we can turn RPD into personal-level data," he said. "We have audited this and found it to be effective and we're very comforable with that as an approach.”

RPD is also able to solve the problem of measuring new TV viewing behaviours such as time-shifting and out-of-home TV, pointed out Robles.

“Consumer behaviour has moved on, and much of that viewing behaviour is not captured right now,” agreed Lee.

If captured, these data would represent a major advantage for ad sales. “With RPD there are fewer spots that registered zero in terms of ratings, because it measures alternative viewing," said Robles. "This in turn means bigger eyeballs for advertisers. While there are advantages with using the people meter [TV Audience Measurement or TAM], it has gaps for Pay TV, and RPD can fill those.”

To help push the ubiquitous use of RPD measurement ahead, IPTV channel providers need to do a better job of working with agencies and overcommunicating its advantages, said Lee. “It's more than just eyeballs, it profiles the way viewers consume content on screen, whether it's live, time-shifted, or on another device via OTT ['over the top' services].”

To that end, PCCW intends to work with Kantar in implementing RPD by the first quarter of 2014.

“Courageous media owners and agencies who move first will benefit from being ahead of the curve,” said Moreton. “Right now the only P&L leverage we have is to trim budgets. We need a quantifiable data source that allows us to say, 'if you can give me this much budget, I can return this much to the business'.”

Down the line, there are opportunities to match RPD data with third-party consumer information, said Robles, adding that NBC would be happy to work with IPTV providers toward this goal. “It's already being used in the US, and gives you data on what products your audience is likely to buy.”

While RPD is not a perfect solution on its own, when combined with TAM and augmented with other data sources such as Twitter discussions, it could be a powerful measurement solution, the panelists concluded.

Other sessions at the convention this morning delved into case studies regarding the creation and deal-making behind branded content. Participants included representatives of A+E Networks, Turner Broadcasting, Discovery Networks, GroupM, Shell and Fox International Channels.  

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