Will VideoCensus turn the world of TV audience insights on its head?

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Is Nielsen’s new online video measurement tool the answer to skewed TV viewing figures as more and more people watch their favourite shows online?

Jobs in TV insight sound glamorous and covetable but this industry has surely got to be one of the most complex and competitive. And, one that has been made even more difficult by the rise in online TV viewing and the need to marry these figures with TV viewing; to make a multitude of decisions such as what programmes and brands to pair together in what time slot.

Nielsen yesterday unveiled the first industry-endorsed tool to measure online video viewing on home and office computers by audience size, demographic, location and the time spent watching streams.

Coupled with stats already available from rival firm YouGov, marketers are steadily increasing their knowledge and understanding of this market. Nielsen says 26.9 million people in the UK viewed video streams from home or work computers in April, and that men view 78% more online video than women.

Meanwhile, YouGov insights say 30% of UK adults regularly watch TV online, and the figure increases to 81% when only students are taken into account as a result of more student households substituting TV sets for laptops. Naturally as this data gets richer, opportunities for brands will become more apparent and will attract a greater share of advertising budget. As will social media opportunities; for example, brands hosting webchats and Twitter feeds around programmes that attract high social media debate.

But will a dedicated online video monitoring tool become redundant when the worlds of TV and internet finally collide for real? Google and Yahoo! have already staked their claims in this space, aided by the likes of manufacturers such as Samsung, which announced this week a £7 million marketing push for its internet-connected Smart TVs. The home devices feature built-in on demand viewing and web browsing, meaning users will be able to dip in and out of these and traditional TV, further blurring the boundaries that marketers currently navigate their spend through.

Insight tools should already be evolving to anticipate this transition. Not only will brands have to adapt how they approach TV and online advertising, but it will also have an impact on how TV brands themselves purchase and market their content and create new products and services.

For example, Sky is reported to have bought the popular programme Glee from E4 for double the amount that E4 originally paid. Sky will be looking to recoup its investment, but this show’s cult following, made up largely of the students and young people I mentioned earlier, probably won’t switch to a paid-for subscription just for Glee, and will find ways to continue viewing for free.

Presumably Sky won’t want to see its £500,000 per episode go down the drain. So how will it keep viewers flocking to Glee once its paid-for nature may exclude most of its core audience?

Create an exclusive online-only TV viewing offering through a subscription service or even an app? Entice more students and young people as customers with internet-led budget packages? Buy more programmes aimed at this target audience so signing up to Sky becomes inevitable? Or partner with the likes of Samsung, who already has on board Channel 5, BBC, YouTube and LoveFilm to provide further viewing streams for its Smart TV owners?

For the TV networks that find themselves in this situation, it will be a tricky call, but insight could be the first step towards success.

Make sure you sign up for the free Insight Show on 29 and 30 June. The show is part of Marketing Week Live! at Grand Olympia, London. Register here

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