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Future Viewing - out with the old, in with the new

By Rupert Burnham | October 15, 2016

The days of TV ratings companies and their methodologies may soon be numbered. The sample sizes used by the current ratings systems are already considered to be poor and unrepresentative. Combine this with the decline in traditional viewing figures and audiences, and the corresponding rise in online viewing, then what they can offer in terms of ratings information starts to look increasingly redundant. After all, what good is ratings information if the figures given represent an ever decreasing demographic and proportion of the viewing population?

There is, and has been for sometime now a new generation of viewers to whom TV ratings information simply does not apply. For these viewers, watching via traditional broadcast is becoming a quaint tradition. Their preference is to consume all content online via tablets, smartphones or computers, either streamed or downloaded. For the Millennials and younger among them who’ve only ever known an online existence, the very idea of being bound to traditional broadcast and not being able to watch whatever they wanted, whenever and wherever they wanted, is a complete anathema.

Importantly, with the exponential growth of broadband across the world and the huge impact this is having on viewing habits, this shift away from traditional viewing platforms is only ever going to grow. Watching and streaming content directly online is the future, and if this is the case, then traditional TV ratings companies will decline and the relevance of the information they provide becomes irrelevant.


But if traditional companies can’t be relied on to give accurate information about who is supposedly viewing content, then who can? Well fortunately as with the demise of many titans and established companies, a newer model always exists. Others are lining up to fill the void, but where they substantially differ from TV ratings companies is in the depth, range and detail of the information that they can provide by accessing the BitTorrent. With the ability to gather detailed information on consumption habits of all media types, such as film, TV, games, software, and eBooks, their capability far exceeds the scope of anything that TV ratings companies can offer.

Another massive benefit of the BitTorrent network is that it’s considered to be a free market, which makes it possible for these new contenders to compare titles across the full spectrum of media, not just traditional formats, and to access the entire content library. Think about that for a moment, even the information that SVOD platforms could provide from studying the consumption habits of their audience, if they shared it, can’t compare to what the BitTorrent network is able to provide as each platform has a limited catalogue.

In this age of ‘Big Data’ the sheer volume of BitTorrent users (some 500 million at the last count), means that media owners now have the potential to gain unparalleled insights into which groups are consuming their content, where their content is popular, and how its being viewed. Never has it been easier to define the end user, the shows they like, and of increasing importance, the shows that they will like. One only has to look at how companies like Netflix operate. Netflix purposefully acquired the digital rights for ‘Prison Break’ in the Netherlands knowing full well that it was one of the most pirated shows in that country. This alone is telling, the information from the BitTorrent network can show media owners and distributors where their content is popular and where sales can be made.

But this is just the beginning, think bigger. If it’s known where content is popular and with which demographics, then a near future where this information could be merged with data and insight on customer media consumption and viewing preferences, would give media owners the ability to know their audience better than ever before. If there’s the potential to know exactly what’s liked by any certain group, then a world of fully personalised content where media owners create shows specifically for individuals, surrounded by advertisements applicable only to them is potentially not that far away. After all, this content could be produced safe in the knowledge that it’s completely applicable to the end user, who will gladly consume something relevant to them.

If this is tied into the train of thought that the availability of better content, of a higher quality and with targeted advertising serves to drive people to online pay models, Amazon Prime and Netflix being the two most obvious examples, then TV ratings companies’ days really could be numbered.
To paraphrase Shakespeare’s immortal quote “it’s a brave new world”, the question as always is how to best respond.

Tags: audience measurment millennials tv ratings