Calls for TV industry to address audience measurement as viewers continue to tumble



Some of Australia’s most powerful media buyers have urged the TV industry to adopt a more “holistic” measurement of video consumption as audiences for linear TV continue to tumble.

The calls came after an interview in today’s Australian Financial Review with GroupM chief investment officer Danny Bass who asked if the traditional TV model is “breaking”, noting metropolitan television audiences are down six per cent this ratings year between 6pm and midnight.

Last month OzTam set up a tender for the contract to measure TV audiences, which currently sits with Nielsen TAM, inviting global measurement firms including Ipsos, Kantar and GfK to set out how they would set up the service for the future.

CEO of UM Mat Baxter told Mumbrella: “I don’t think we will ever see the audiences we used to see in free-to-air television. You will have to chase them in other places – be that in streaming services or online – to be able to meet the delta between what you used to get and what you now get.”

Most of the media buyers Mumbrella spoke to denied the issue was being driven by the rise of streaming video on demand (SVOD) services, such as Presto, Stan and Netflix, arguing there had been a broader shift away from terrestrial television happening for some time.

“It is not the SVODs,” said Alex Pekish group media investment director at Aegis Media. “They add a little bit but are predominantly consumed post 9.30pm and at weekends, whereas the majority of the television audience is between 6pm and 8.30pm.

“I think audiences per se is at a critical point. The way audiences are consumed off multiple devices is becoming more prevalent than what it was last year. It’s not just television.”

Baxter agreed adding: “We have seen a downward trend in TV audiences before the streaming battle started. It has been a continuing pattern that TV audiences have been moving away from traditional TV for quite a while.”

The UM boss argued that while the shift was not new there was a hesitancy on the part of the TV networks and their industry owned metric OzTam to measure audiences outside of traditional TV.

“It is unlikely that those audiences are going to be worth the same amount of money in other locations (such as tablet or mobile) because there was always a fairly steep premium attached to free-to-air television,” said Baxter.

“They should be giving you an aggregate measure to show you the true power of the show,” he said citing the example of Seven’s Home and Away which often pulls hundreds of thousands of viewers on Plus7.

“Home and Away is a great example where its viewing audience on catch up can often be as big as the people who are watching that show when its programmed on free-to-air,” he said.

Yahoo!7“To not be showing that as an industry measure seems crazy to me. It’s not like this has crept up on the industry – it’s been well documented that these fundamental shifts are occurring.

“It is critical that they evolve the currency and that the currency become a more truly reflective measure and a more holistic measure of how pieces of content are performing in market.”

Official comment is being sought from OzTam, but a spokeswoman for the audience metric did note it is currently implementing a measurement system for the networks’ online catch-up TV services.

For Dentsu Aegis’s Pekish and UM’s Baxter this element was critical of measuring people on TV, tablet, mobile and computer was critical. “It is going to need to show more than just people sitting behind a TV,” said Pekish.

“We have passed a point of no return on this and it will be interesting to see how the (TV network) business models evolve to compensate and adjust for that reality,” said Baxter.

“We need to look at an aggregate of TV audiences rather than just looking at a platform.

“What you should be buying as an advertiser is an audience that watches a particular piece of content – where they consume that content is largely irrelevant.”

Another media buyer, who asked not to be named, took aim at the timing of the attack from GroupM’s Bass, noting it comes as Australia’s biggest media buying group launches into its annual upfront negotiations over ad rates with the TV networks.

“There are no surprises here. You can set your watch by it,” they added.



Mark Coad, CEO of Omnicom media agency PHD, took aim at the practice of committing large amounts of client budgets to upfront spends with media companies saying: “That doesn’t necessarily change the value of the commitments we make to commercial TV operators, more so structurally how and where we make those commitments.

“We continually suggest that should be with specific client to client focus, rather than at macro trading group level.”

In the AFR piece Seven’s chief revenue officer Kurt Burnette warned agencies not to move budgets away from TV saying: “For anyone who wants to make significant [budget] moves out of TV, knock yourself out.

“There’s going to be significant ramifications… Agencies want to push their own [media inventory] trading desks where there are a number of unclear perimeters of what the CPMs actually are. We’re going to have a tough discussion with some people but you can not deny the power of broadcast TV. They are the facts.”

Nic Christensen 


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