‘A deeply flawed and misdirected move’: Mel Hopkins blasts Foxtel’s audience measurement system

Mel Hopkins, chief marketing and audience officer, at Seven West Media, writes about Foxtel's recently announced audience measurement system, which she feels "shows a clear lack of focus on their customers".

Foxtel’s announcement last month that it’s going to set up its own audience measurement surprised many. A few media executives suggested it was an interesting move and a couple called it out as a good move. For me, however, it is a deeply flawed and misdirected move. It won’t benefit the TV or video industry, the media sector, media agencies or marketers.

In a highly fragmented media world, where managing audience measurement across channels, not to mention devices, is increasingly challenging, having a media organisation break away from the industry to create something that will only (potentially) benefit itself demonstrates a clear lack of focus on their customers.

Media companies’ commercial customers are media agencies and, importantly, CMOs. The best businesses always have customer experience at their core and think about what their customers need and want first, second, third and last. Foxtel wants to muddy the video audience measurement waters. I guess they think it will lead to a financial gain. I know that they haven’t thought hard about the impact on CMOs.

Marketers have a lot on their plates these days and they spend (perhaps due to media fragmentation) a disproportionate amount of time thinking about media, and a media audience measurement. Foxtel’s half-baked announcement that it will roll out its own measurement system sometime in 2024 might have got some more CMOs thinking more about video audience measurement – but not in a positive way. It wasn’t that long ago that the newspaper industry thought it would be a good idea to have two readership measurement systems, Morgan and EMMA. No one wanted it and CMOs were left scratching their heads. It was a disaster and the newspaper industry suffered.

What the media and advertising industry needs is a single, transparent audience measurement system for all video – free linear TV, pay TV, streaming, video on demand, the lot. Putting marketers first and trying to help them in a world of fragmentation will drive customer satisfaction and, potentially, drive growth for the TV business. (And bear in mind that Foxtel has tried this before, and failed.)

No matter what Foxtel might claim, there is no evidence that CMOs or media agencies want it to set up a new audience measurement system. It will only result in confusion and misleading information, particularly when we have one single, independently verified measurement system already in place.

The OzTAM TV audience measurement system is one of the best, if not the best, in the world. It’s accurate, robust, regularly reviewed and updated, and truly representative of the national population. The Foxtel panel will be a pale imitation: Foxtel is not in every home in Australia, therefore it can’t accurately and reliably reflect the population in the way that OzTAM does.

OzTAM’s VOZ system is Australia’s only source of true national, de-duplicated audience estimates with co-viewing and demographics across all linear TV and BVOD viewing. It captures viewing on an extraordinary 16 million devices and also measures all TV sets – internet-connected or not, in homes (about 39% of household TVs are not connected to the internet). It focuses on people, not just boxes, and everyone is welcome to be part of it.

There is also the question of how information from the new Foxtel system will be slotted into agencies’ buying systems, and at what cost? Some media agency executives have come out in support of Foxtel’s proposed system, arguing that an additional data point is a good thing given they are already relying on surveyed data. That’s sort of fair, but it overlooks the inherent flaws and biases in the proposed Foxtel system and the huge, expensive job of integrating Foxtel’s data into agencies’ systems.

We have an opportunity in Australia to lead the way in audience measurement and drive a more transparent investment model in video for advertisers, providing much-needed simplicity in a headache of media channels that spout out measurement models, many of which are not independently verified and most that talk at odds with each other instead of to each other. As result, CMOs are spending big on either building their own internal, unified measurement systems and programs or leaning on their media agencies to do the work.

When you need to plan, buy, optimise, create and measure performance in an increasingly fragmented landscape, breaking down silos is super important. It is challenging enough trying to measure YouTube versus Instagram versus display versus search versus TV versus streaming versus out of home versus radio versus print. Why Foxtel thinks adding more complexity into the video channel is a good idea blows my mind.

The misleading data and logistical headaches the Foxtel audience measurement system will create are key issues. But at the end of the day, the biggest blunder in what Foxtel is doing is that it isn’t customer focused. Anything that doesn’t put the customer first is going to fail.


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