With the rapid growth of digital cable networks and the development of new “TV Everywhere” Internet video sites, it’s vital for programmers, distributors and advertisers to be able to measure how viewers are consuming content on multiple platforms. Gian Fulgoni, the co-founder and executive chairman of comScore Inc., is at the forefront of cross-platform measurement. In a recent interview with cable industry reporter and CTAM contributor Steve Donohue, Fulgoni discussed comScore’s multiplatform measurement strategy, and the potential he sees from using data collected from digital cable set-tops to improve the measurement of video content and advertising.
 
Many cable companies and networks are working on TV Everywhere sites that would allow subscribers to view content from their cable subscriptions on the Web. What role would you like to see comScore play in TV Everywhere distribution?
 
Fulgoni: We are already significant providers of measurement and data for the Internet, and that’s true of both the fixed access Web as well as mobile. For us, the TV is the third screen, and we believe that it’s critical that we be in the business of measuring viewing behavior on that screen in addition to the others. So as the TV viewing databases become available – whether that’s from an MSO or a DVR provider or a satellite company – we would hope to be able to establish relationships with them to obtain access to that data, integrate it with our other databases, and build additional value into it using comScore assets and knowledge.
 
Nielsen Media Research doesn’t measure digital cable networks, which is a challenge for cable MSOs that want to increase local advertising revenue. Is that something comScore would look to offer the cable industry?
 
Fulgoni: Yeah, for sure. Again, I think it’s the difference between [set-top box data] and if you have to build out your own sample with your own proprietary devices that you’re going to put into people’s homes, which is the way that television ratings have historically been obtained. It’s a really expensive, complicated system to build, and you’re limited by that complexity and the cost, in terms of the sample size that you can offer.
 
One of the beauties of all of this data becoming available from the supply side is you won’t have these constraints of sample size. I think that was one of the big issues in terms of measuring all of the digital channels that are available. If your sample size isn’t big enough, you’re just not going to be able to do it. The more set-top boxes of data you have, the better the job you’ll be able to do. I think that’s definitely one of the benefits that is going to be coming to the industry down the road.
 
What are the most important metrics for programmers and advertisers to focus on when it comes to Web video content: Unique visitors or time spent on each video?
 
Fulgoni:  I think those are two important measures. You need to know the unduplicated count of unique viewers, you need to know time [spent], you need to know the ads that were running. That’s another huge positive about the availability of all of the digital TV data. Remember the ad measurement can come along with it. That’s very, very different from the challenge of measurement in the broadcast world with a small sample of households.
 
In the digital world, the ad measurement is there. To us it’s directly analogous with what we do today with the fixed Internet. We capture not only people’s viewing of the content, or reading of the content, but we capture the ads as they are delivered to the Internet user. It’s very easy to run a whole set of analysis of the impact of advertising on behavior. And I think that’s one of the key benefits that will come out of these digital TV databases. It will be measurement at a much finer level of granularity, it will be very fast measurement, and the viewing will be completely integrated with the delivery of ads, allowing a whole range of improved understanding about how advertising is changing consumer behavior.
 
Nielsen has said that 99 percent of the viewing of TV programming is done on an actual TV, with less than 1 percent of video being consumed through online and mobile platforms. Do you agree with those numbers, and how do you see it changing over time?
 
Fulgoni: If you look at the total amount of video that’s consumed on the Internet today, and you look at it relative to the amount of time spent watching television, it’s growing very, very rapidly, but low single digits. One of the reasons is [that] the video being watched, for the most part until recently, has been short-form. Longer form video, from the likes of Hulu, has been a relatively recent phenomenon, but it’s growing very rapidly. So I would expect that it will continue to grow, and the viewing of television content on the Internet will become a bigger and bigger percentage.
 
That said, I think the question that nobody yet knows the answer to is to what degree will people be willing to watch television content on a small computer screen versus a big TV screen? I personally think it’s a generation issue. People my age are going to watch it on a large TV screen, whereas a significant proportion of younger people are used to watching it on a computer screen and will continue to do so. I would expect the Internet viewing percentage to continue to climb, but I would expect that the vast majority of viewing will remain on the television screen.
 
What will you talk about at the CTAM Research + Insights conference?
 
Fulgoni: What I’m going to try to do is show what have we learned from looking at Internet behavior through the comScore databases that could be applied to this new digital cable television world. I hope to be able to also show a study that we’re in the process of conducting where we have integrated a digital television viewing database with a comScore database. We’re going to be able to look at the relationship between television viewing and Internet viewing, and I hope to be able to show some results that will demonstrate that a television ad can drive traffic and commerce on a Website, which I think will be pretty interesting for the audience.
 
(Gian Fulgoni will give a keynote address at the CTAM Research + Insights conference on May 12 in Los Angeles. If you comment or ask a question below, he’ll address as many as possible during his address).

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