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Streaming Forum: Inconsistent Measurement Slowing Investment
The lack of consistent metrics is blamed as a key factor hindering greater ad investment in online video. Plus, is Google really the Death Star?

“The currency debate is a big one and buying a BARB or Nielsen is the single thing holding us back,” said Frans Vermeulen, senior vice president of revenue and strategy for Freewheel at the packed Streaming Forum 2013 session “Monetisation in the Multiscreen Universe.”

“Maybe two percent of overall TV ad spend filters through to online,” agreed Stephen Byrne, commercial director for Videoplaza. “BARB [a U.K. TV ratings agency] is about to introduce measurements for online viewing, but it is still a panel-based system of a small subsection of the population which is extrapolated upwards. That may be useful for TV, but it's not specific enough for the screen-based world.

“Another drawback are ad agencies that still buy in siloes. They buy by platform -- for tablet or mobile -- rather than trading by content or audience. We try to put the onus on publishers to sell on audience, knowing that advertisers will pay more for an audience if they knew what it was. But there is a bit of inertia to change.”

Broadcaster Channel 4 has a reputation for pioneering extension of its strong linear brand into digital. In the view of Barry John, ad ops and inventory controller, driving more revenue into online is a matter of scale.

“We are not seeing comparative scale, which is about 50:1 in size of viewing in favour of linear versus VOD. In a general sense the revenue will follow that,” John said. “We find that some agencies are very interested in the granularity that digital offers, but for others it's all about reach and scale and measurement is almost secondary.”

John added: “It's quite difficult to measure VOD because of all the other noise going on around it, and so it's tricky to convince advertisers. That said, our conversations with them in this area are beginning to pay off.”

The discussion began with an overview of online business models of which there are four main ones: ads, subscriptions, purchase, and rental, said Vermeulen. “Whether you are a pure play digital like AOL or Amazon or a pay TV provider like Comcast you are experimenting with them all in different combinations. In some cases with higher subscription feed and lower ad loads, or the reverse.”

Managed service provider Rightster strategizes just this aspect for a diverse field of clients including the on-demand subscription service for the Australian Football League with whom it has just gone live at AFL.tv; YouTube for whom it is one of the top twenty distributors in the world; and news agency ITN for whom it manages originated content on ITN's website.

“There are lots of models existing and new points of consumption emerging,” said Charlie Muirhead, CEO and founder of Rightster, alluding to Instagram's move into video.

“TV is a more efficient channel for appointment to view, but where digital comes into its own is where you can help content owners deliver segmented feeds of a live event such as different language commentaries of the Royal Wedding for ITN to syndicate worldwide. Operationally that's still complex and there's not a lot of money to be made from ads around it, but it is a value-add.”

The panelists were asked by the moderator, Streaming Media senior associate editor Troy Dreier, whether YouTube should be viewed as friend or foe.

Byrne said it depends on the video publisher. “For a publisher of mid- to long-form content, then YouTube is only game in town. You can build strategy with Rightster, or an entire business off the back of it as Machinima has done. I would characterise it as a foe only in the sense that it's Google. I hear this from clients that they don't want to be part of the Death Star. That's a challenge for some long-form premium publishers who want to drive audiences to their sites.”

Muirhead agreed: YouTube's benefit will vary from those who see it as a marketing channel which gives them interesting demographics to those who see it as a possible new revenue stream and are experimenting to those who design original programming for launch on YouTube and it's their only revenue stream.

“Our view it that YouTube should be part of anybody's strategy,” Muirhead said. “You are crazy to ignore 1.1 billion people on a platform. That said, YouTube is the easiest place for content to get lost so you need a content strategy, an audience development strategy to get and retain their attention, and an advertising strategy which on YouTube now can be broadened to include subscriptions.”

Watch the full discussion below:

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