“Defragging” the TV Industry

August 30, 2021

Decades ago, when my then state-of-the-art IBM ThinkPad, which weighed an ounce less than a cinder block, was running slowly, I would walk it to the IT department for help. Despite already knowing the answer, they would always ask, “did I defrag the hard drive?” Defragging, for us laypeople, was an internal program that reassembled storage space on the hard drive that had fragmented over time. This defragmentation process enabled the machine to run more efficiently and faster.

This is what our TV advertising industry needs today. We need a defragmentation process in order to run more efficiently and faster.

With consumers now in control of not only what they watch, but also when, where and how, TV audiences have fragmented across time, platform and device—and ad dollars have fragmented too. Consequently, it’s become difficult for advertisers supporting the development and distribution of content and wanting a holistic view to put all the audience pieces back together. The traditional metered sample can’t do it, because the sample required to capture fragmented viewing is not economically viable. Set-top-box data (or return-path data) does not capture the OTT/CTV activity and is limited to household viewing (as opposed to persons). ACR data is limited to the device and has its own built-in bias, and OTT/CTV data is sitting in a walled garden with the distributor.

So, how do advertisers, or even media owners with multiple distribution channels, defrag the audience? How can advertisers, who want to reach a fragmented TV audience, get the accurate metrics they need (and deserve)?

The answer, from the IT department, is defragmentation. To accomplish this, four ingredients are required:

  1. A collection of census-like, currency grade, cross-platform data – from ALL sources
  2. An ETL framework to integrate and harmonize disparate sets of data into one place
  3. A way to resolve identity to household and, eventually, person
  4. Data made available to buyers and sellers by a trusted, 3rd party

To be fair, there’s a lot of good work being done across the industry, and TVSquared is one of the companies moving it forward. But we’re still not quite there. A recognition and acceptance that collaboration among parties that currently compete would help the entire TV ecosystem develop measurement capabilities to neutralize any advantages digital has had over legacy TV, and reverse the flow of ad dollars to digital.

Or, we could just walk to the IT department.