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Tracking viewers from TV to computer to smartphone

Stuart Elliott 

A consortium of media owners, advertisers and media agencies says it is pleased with the results of two pilot tests, commissioned more than a year ago, that are intended to help improve and modernize the way video viewership habits are measured — all the better to cash in on those new habits.

The consortium, which was formed in 2009 and is known as the Coalition for Innovative Media Measurement, or CIMM, will shortly present the results of the tests, conducted separately by two big media measurement firms, Arbitron and comScore.

CIMM commissioned the tests as part of its efforts to change decades-old ways of measuring how viewers watch video. The rise of computers and smartphones means, of course, that TV sets must now share eyeballs, and attention, with screens on newer devices — devices whose use has been more difficult to measure than has been the case with television.

The goal of the members of CIMM — which include AT&T, CBS, Discovery Communications, NBCUniversal, News Corporation, Procter & Gamble, Time Warner and Unilever — has been to determine how to measure consumption of video content in cross-platform ways, whether on TV, online or on mobile devices.

The trick was to figure out how to do that across a single group of consumers — known in research parlance as single source — who watch video in all three media formats, rather than aggregating data from different groups.

The interest in solutions among members of the consortium, along with the rest of Madison Avenue, has only grown keener since the tests were commissioned, Ms. Clarke said.

“We need this,” she said, adding, “It’s almost too late,” because “consumers are so far ahead of us.”

Arbitron formed a panel for its test composed of 500 people who were users of its Portable People Meter measurement technology. It conducted the test from November through January.

Both pilot tests had a similar major finding: that the growing viewership of video online and on mobile devices is not diminishing the appetite for watching television.

“Consumers have a desire to build more content into their lives,” said Joan FitzGerald, vice president for television sales and business development at comScore in Reston, Va.

For instance, consumers who watch online video “were greater users of TV” than those who did not, she added.

The fact that the pilot test showed “there is not a lot of cannibalization” is significant, Ms. FitzGerald said.

Likewise, Carol Edwards, senior vice president for cross-platform sales and at Arbitron in Columbia, Md., said: “There isn’t cannibalization. Other platforms are complementary to television.”

“TV continues to play such a dominant role,” she added, “though there is content available on other platforms.”

The tests are important, Ms. Edwards said, because “all the media companies are trying to monetize their content platforms and to be fully monetized, they need to be measured.”

Among the findings of the Arbitron test that may be surprising was that of all the people who viewed content on all three screens, the largest demographic group was not the youngest.

Adults ages 35 to 49 led, at 36.6 percent, followed by adults ages 50 and older, at 34.8 percent, and then by adults ages 18 to 34, at 28.6 percent.

A highlight of the comScore test was how ardently consumers were engaging with media brands across the three platforms, implying that efforts by traditional TV brands to extend their reach onto new screens may be working.

Next up after the presentations, Ms. Clarke said, would be to find methods of “scaling” the tests — that is, using panels that are large enough to make the results reliable enough to use in setting rates for commercials that appear during video clips online and on mobile devices.

© 2012 The New York Times News Service

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First Published: Mon, June 18 2012. 00:00 IST