Understanding the history, and the future of ‘audience’

Randy Cooke

Randy Cooke.

By Randy Cooke, VP Programmatic TV, SpotX

“Audience” is a term that has undergone radical transformation in recent years. It’s evolved from a general understanding of TV ratings and inferred demographics from sample-based measurement into a concept encompassing deep, data-driven insights, informed by a proliferation of first- and third-party datasets. The term has essentially become a euphemism for data. In monetization circles, audiences can now describe individual viewers’ profiles, behavior and even future intentions.

Up until now, broadcast TV and digital video audiences have been measured using separate, incompatible techniques. As a result, the valuation and sale of digital video and broadcast television inventory has been siloed, hampering the development of synergies and efficiencies between advertising delivered across different video distribution points. Even within television measurement systems, significant methodological differences between local and network audience estimates exist. Consequently, the value of traditional measurement currencies is deteriorating as marketers seek reliable mechanisms for extracting insights into ad viewers beyond simple age and gender.

As traditional media owners distribute more and more content through connected devices, the value of audiences contained within these digital streams must be capitalized upon. Advertisers demonstrate an increasing willingness to pay premium rates to target individuals based on the data available within digital video environments. In fact, ad decisions are increasingly being made based on the volume and quality of data available, placing building pressure on distribution channels that lack real-time audience discovery.

What is the answer to these challenges? Audience unification.

To this point the market has lacked the measurement and the platform to unify monetization across all content distribution points. With measurement services that combine TV and digital audience measurement like comScore’s recently released Xmedia product starting to enter the market, this is set to rapidly become a reality. Developments such as this mean the rate structures for digital video and television, which are currently completely disembodied, can unify under a “horizontal yield management” approach.

Be it broadcast TV, linear streaming, on-demand or SVOD, delivered through mobile, desktop, smart TV, multimedia device or gaming system, the ability to centralize the monetization of these distribution channels is more important than ever. For these audiences to be sold at rates befitting their true value, media owners need a platform for managing inventory, audience fulfillment and yield across all ad-supported distribution channels.

Armed with such a platform, media owners will have the ability to effectively monetize cross-screen audiences at a campaign level. This possibility comes with a wealth of never-before-seen benefits to both maximize efficiency and effectiveness of video advertising.

On the efficiency side, unifying inventory sale under a single platform gives media owners the flexibility to manage channel capacity and scarcity across distribution points to fulfill audience obligations in the most efficient manner possible.

Looking ahead, media owners will also be able to provide advertisers with greater linkage between separate ad executions and responses to ad exposure. For example, correlations between ad exposure and brand engagement, such as interaction with a brand on social media or its website following exposure to a TV ad can be captured, enabling sophisticated cross-screen pricing techniques to drive higher rates.

With the advent of holistic inventory management platforms, the beginning of the end of currency-based media transactions has begun. As the industry moves toward the unification of traditional broadcast television and digital video, media owners require the tools necessary to meet the needs of increasingly sophisticated, data-driven marketers who demand targeting and proven effectiveness in their media buys.

Indeed, “audience” has evolved as a construct to encapsulate the management of data, insights and ad executions at the intersection of content and consumer.

For more on “horizontal yield management,” see SpotX’s A Programmatic TV Guide for Sellers White Paper.

As VP of Programmatic TV at SpotX, Randy Cooke helps content owners, networks, MVPDs and TV stations monetize audiences across an increasingly-fragmented viewing and distribution landscape. Prior to SpotX, Randy led research teams at NCC Media, establishing industry-wide standards for the application of audience data. Randy lives in Dallas, Texas and holds a Bachelor of Science from The University of Texas at Austin.

 The Cynsiders column is a platform for industry leaders to reach out to colleagues, followers, and the public at large. In their own words and in targeted Q&As, columnists address breaking news, issues of the day, and the larger changes going on in the ever-evolving world of television, video and digital. Cynsiders columns live on Cynopsis’ main page and are promoted across all daily newsletters. We welcome readers’ comments, queries, and column ideas at RDawn (@) cynopsis.com

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