Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

TV Everywhere’s Counting Problem

“TV Everywhere” is supposed to let the traditional TV business hang on to the status quo, by promising viewers they can watch whatever they want, whenever they want it.

As long as they keep paying for TV.

But even if consumers go for that deal, the TV guys need to make sure that advertisers buy in, too.

And that won’t happen until the TV guys can get some basic stuff right. Like counting eyeballs, no matter where they watch a show.

That could still take a while. Witness Comcast’s announcement yesterday, made at the cable industry’s annual convention in Boston, that it has been working with Nielsen on a plan to count viewers when they watched video on an iPad*, using Comcast’s Xfinity app.

For various technical reasons, this is much harder than you’d think, and the two companies have already been beavering away at this for 18 months. Now they’re launching a trial, and Comcast executive Matt Strauss is optimistic that they can work the kinks out by 2013, and advertisers could have true “multiplatform measurement.”

But that only works if all of the big pay-TV providers sign on to the new technology. And the media-measurement business is full of different tests and initiatives, all shooting off in different directions.

Last week, for instance, Spanish-language powerhouse Univision announced a “video neutral” deal with media-buying agency Starcom, which is supposed to mean Univision gets credit for its stuff no matter where anyone watches it. But the announcement describing the deal doesn’t explain how Univision or Starcom will track those eyeballs.

Meanwhile, Nielsen’s rival eyeball-counter comScore recently announced that it had its own technology in place to measure mobile devices like phones and tablets. And earlier this year it announced its own “multiscreen research initiative,” where it paired up with AT&T.

But comScore isn’t tracking any traffic on connected devices, like Google TVs, Apple TVs or Microsoft Xboxes. So if any of that really is taking off, that’s yet another headache.

Shouldn’t this stuff be easier? After all, we’ve figured out how to get the video all of these places — why can’t we count it, too?

On the other hand, recall that the iPhone is still a mere five years old, and the iPad is only two. That’s a blink of an eye for the measurement guys, who move deliberately because there’s billions of ad dollars at stake, no matter what they do. But they may still have to speed things up.

*Or, theoretically, on another tablet.

(Image courtesy of Shutterstock/Liewluck)


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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald