YouTube has announced it will move away from third-party measurement for co-viewing on connected TVs (CTV), and instead trade based on its own measurements and surveys—triggering pushback from agencies around transparency concerns.
The change, which was announced to clients earlier this month, will take effect in January 2024 and will impact YouTube Select video inventory on CTV. Advertisers will still be able to negotiate using Comscore and Nielsen co-viewing estimates. Google's co-viewing data will not however, be incorporated into Nielsen's own assessments.
Co-watching has grown in significance in the digital era, despite its elusive nature, particularly for YouTube and other platforms whose share of TV viewing is rising.
The amount of time spent watching YouTube on TV screens has been rising for some time; CTV viewing time now matches that of mobile devices at 15 minutes. By including user-friendly features and even bringing Shorts to TV screens, YouTube has benefited from the rising viewership.
The video platform is facing some pushback from agencies who see the move as a step away from third-party measurement by the platform, and reinforces concerns about the potential fragmentation of the measurement landscape
It's relatively effective to estimate co-viewing numbers using older ad measurement techniques, like Nielsen's set-top boxes, which ask viewers to indicate who is watching, but it's more difficult to do so for digital platforms like CTVs. In-platform surveys have long been a factor for YouTube when calculating its co-viewing multiplier.
Networks and streamers quickly formed collaborations with other measurement rivals when Nielsen lost its (since regained) accreditation in 2021, in order to have more control over their metrics and to fulfil the need for more reliable data in the digital age.
In a business where fraud or inaccurate metrics are continuously a concern, the move pushed advertisers to become familiar with various tech stacks depending on the network they traded with. It also raised questions about transparency and accountability.
By creating a Joint Industry Committee (JIC) and even signing buy-side agreements, networks have made an effort to meet these objectives. It hasn't been simple, though; YouTube and other companies have declined to join the JIC, causing a rift to grow between old networks and their digital rivals.
Ultimately, while YouTube is set to gain more control over its rates and data with the elimination of third-party currencies, it may likely come at the expense of advertiser trust.