It sounds very basic, but Skype just finally announced that they will bring Skype video calls to various HD TVs.

Whilst this is just one of the many TV widgets that we would see in the near future, it is a magnificent example of how TV is set to become the communication hub for your home.

This is also the beginning of TV becoming “social”. I hear BBC are already beta testing the iPlayer3 which is set to incorporate Twitter as well as “video book marks” (to mark a certain portion of a programme) that you can share with the friends on your list. With iPlayer on Freesat, it is likely to be a major innovation for the UK market.

Video sharing would take a completely new meaning if such advances move ahead. YouTube is getting a lot of “long-form” traction from content producers, and their existing social infrastructure would begin to redefine how people engage with that content. Though one really wishes that Google do a good TV widget or even upgrade their AppleTV interface.

Now the question is, when would the TV audience measurement industry get down to doing Social GRPs?

Click here to watch what I am watching right now.

Click here to see that joke in HIGNFY I was talking about last night.

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We, the people in the traditional media businesses, are strange creatures. Having been on top of 90% of the media revenues for years and years our beliefs are strong, we are dangerously naive, and our vision increasingly myopic. We still see the development and “digitisation” of media a phenonmenon similar to our young children wanting to hook their play stations to the TV,  while we want to watch our afternoon comedy.  Nothing to pay attention to here, the children will eventually get over it.

This is exactly the same attitude I came across in a recent discussion on IPTV, hosted by Alumni of a prestigious business school in France. This discussion took place last week in London and the panel consisted of speakers from two of the key broadcast organisations in the UK, and of some high energy start-ups in the area of internet video. One member of the panel, from a prestigious TV distribution platform in the UK, dismissed Google TV ads as something “just in the US, and not delivering on core fundamentals”. Crap!

Do we believe it “does not deliver on core fundamentals” because we have become the fundamentalists of the TV world ourselves? Google TV Ads is important, not because Google will take over the world one day, but because they are laying the grounds to change the rules of the game for traditional TV. This is how:

– It redefines the way TV is targetted- hence how it is measured, hence how it is traded. Their approach would deliver in the age of digital TV, and the traditional approach does not.

– It challenges the decades long incestual relationship of the research agencies and media owners. Google’s data is more transparent, more real time, and offers more analytics. If there is one thing you can trust Google to do, it is number crunching.

– It helps media owners maximise revenues and advertisers reach, in the age of fragmented on-demand platforms. Traditional models can not even cope with PVR/DVRs.

– Most of the big players in the media and research industry are likely to term Google’s work as something that has a limited scope but would then go and do something similar to Google TV Ads and use their scale to make it sound better. They will.

And if we still do not get it (and I have a feeling we perhaps would but not in the short-term), we deserve to live in a world where most of people still like to be told when they should watch something that they do not want to watch to begin with. We might as well.

You have probably seen the recent news of NBC agreeing to let Google TV Ads sell some of its inventory through Google TV Ads platform. Seemingly harmless, what really is Google TV Ads and what are the potential implications of such deals? I am assuming that NBC is just a start for Google for such ventures.

To begin with, Google TV Ads is a wonderful application. It is the “TV Optimizer” of the modern day and builds on the Google search advertising schematic. The real basis for this breakthrough for Google is not the NBC deal but in fact their earlier partnership with EchoStar (or Dish Network), and Astound Cables in the US. Their new set top boxes of these two cable/DTH operators have the ability to track viewership second by second. Hence at an aggregate level, you can have the statistics on how many times a commercial was viewed, and whether it was viewed through to the end. Google uses this data to find relevance between certain types of viewers and ads and content, and has created a platform, exactly based on their search model, that makes use of this data to “serve” ads to the viewers.

This is a massive departure from our demographic targetting techniques, into a more “mindset” and relevance led placement of TV ads. Much like the difference between placing a newspaper advert, or placing an ad via Google search. It is going to require an equally big change of mindset within the TV buyers community.

What is so unique about it is that this model of TV advertising breaks away from ratings, and yet is highly measurable. Logically, this system should even work for on-demand content. By virtue of this, it creates an alternate trading currency in the market. The fact that the measurements are highly accurate and relevant, Google is potentially able to trade inventory at higher margins and minimum waste (buys cheap, sells cheapish), or pass on the advantage to the advertisers. What are you media agency giants of the world doing sleeping on your laurels, wake up!?

Once this model picks up popularity, there is no stopping all sorts of advertisers to sign up to such deals, though NBC have optimistically said that this venture would attract “an entirely new group of clients”.

What are the disadvantages of it…? It is just US based at the minute, and that too only on Dish Network/Astound homes. Unless the same set-top box technology is exported to other cable/DTH operators, and markets, it is going to remain a limited venture.

Ratings…?

July 15, 2008

According to an estimate by e-marketer, about 25% of the TV content would be watched via either on-demand TV, over the internet, digital HD broadcast, or even on mobile devices by 2012. Whilst this figure is for the US, I would imagine it would well represent quite a few other markets that are spending huge moneys on modern broadcast infrastructure (UK’s Freesat for instance) and the markets with fair broadband penetration rates. These rates are catching up quite fast in markets that represents most of the world’s ad spend growth.

Globally, the TV advertising spend is estimated to be about US$ 200 billion. Do we see 25% of it going into other newer form of TV viewering? We hope.

The major hinderance for this change in ad spending would perhaps be the trading currency for TV advertising, and the de facto measurement matrix- ratings. Unless someone comes up with a way of measuring all TV in an integrated manner.

Just last week, ACNieldon, the world’s biggest provider of TV viewership data, held a client survey to determine the need and demand for a TV audience research that would measure “all screens”. I am amazed at the fact that they thought this demand needs researching! Anyway, Nielson also need to prepare for broadcast over the digital spectrum, and of course the rise of the on-demand and interactive TV. It would be interesting to see how they really mould and modernise themselves to deliver this target.

One thing is for sure, the ratings would not exist in the form and manner they do now. Simply because of the basic premise: Ratings measure the “potential delivery” of a message. How many people are likely to have watched a piece of programming at a given time. Whereas in the modern TV schematic, you are not only a bit more sure of the delivery of the message, you also do not watch a piece of programming at a given time. Also, you perhaps watch the same programme via a diverse range of devices.

In this need for “integration” of TV measurement, which way do you think the wind is going to blow? Would the new ways of watching TV be incorporated into “ratings”, or do you think the ratings would give way to more modern way the advertising on internet is measured? Watch-through rates of sorts perhaps?