It is about that time to reflect on the events of the past year—and there have been few years with greater innovation and transformation for the TV industry than 2021.
This past year, TV and TV measurement were reinvented. The former’s definition more firmly became understood as spanning multiple platforms, encompassing linear and streaming, while the latter evolved to a point where measuring cross-platform, in real time and at scale, is both a reality and a must have for advertisers. While these changes are related, I believe they initially happened separately.
TV’s reinvention was led by the internet (which had already revolutionized print and music ), so it was only a matter of time for TV to do the same. Netflix was probably the first to anticipate the massive shift that was about to happen, ushering in the streaming TV era, while TV networks were likely the last. Fast-forward to 2021, and now the major entertainment companies (e.g. Disney, WarnerMedia and NBCUniversal) all have their own streaming services to compete with Netflix. COVID has certainly played a notable role in shifting the power from media companies to consumers, as stay-at-home policies led to more TV viewing, across platforms. But I ultimately see COVID more as an accelerant, not the cause—the pieces were already in place for TV’s revolution, and there’s no going back now.
As for measurement, we all know that legacy TV measurement has been under pressure for some time, but things got ugly in 2021, forcing measurement’s evolution to really accelerate. Due to COVID restrictions, Nielsen could not properly monitor its technology in panel homes, leading them to underestimate TV viewership. They did so just as all other companies and outlets were estimating much higher numbers. This inevitably led to a massive outpouring of criticisms, from both the buy-side and sell-side, and the loss of Nielsen’s MRC accreditation. Around the same time, NBCU embarked on its own process to redefine TV measurement
Time will tell how this all plays out – but, like TV itself, I believe that measurement has reached a point of no return.