Will an audience measurement tool help OTT platforms & brands alike?

While OTT players say they have been transparent in their measurements, other industry experts believe a credible cross-media measurement platform will encourage brands to advertise bigger

e4m by Shikha Paliwal
Updated: Dec 4, 2019 11:05 AM



Over-the-Top channels (OTT) have changed media consumption habits in India. Backed by low data costs, the Indian consumer is lapping up video content across devices and shows no signs of any fatigue yet.

The numbers too are stacked in favour of the digital media space with the OTT market. According to a report by global accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), it is set to grow at a rate of 22 per cent to reach Rs 12,000 crore by 2023. Add to this 5G that is expected to play a major disrupter and further draw in users to adopt OTT services.

Further, smartphones, which have been the driving force for video consumption in India, are expected to double in numbers by 2023 and internet users will be up by about 40 per cent, says a McKinsey report. The average digital video consumption too has grown phenomenally over the years and is expected to grow further. All these are indicators of the future potential of the OTT sector.

As the OTT industry grows in strength so does the interest of brands and marketers in leveraging it to reach consumers. According to a KPMG M&E report forecast, by FY24, the overall segment (including digital advertising and subscription revenues from OTT video and audio) will reach Rs 173 billion.

However, despite its evident popularity and brands’ keenness to advertise on the platforms there is one challenge that ails the industry – the lack of a measurement mechanism.

Unlike television, which uses data from BARC India, OTT doesn’t have a common audience measurement system. A problem that industry experts say is coming in the way of growth as it leaves brands and agencies to take at face value the data being offered by individual platforms. With Television, the brand knows its viewership, but with OTT channels it’s not that simple.

However, OTT players say that despite this they offer all the transparency they can, which is why they are seeing growth in ad spends on their platforms and will continue to assist brands add value to their investments.

Explains Karan Bedi, CEO - MX Player, “While digital is booming and there has been a paradigm shift in the way that content is being consumed, I believe that the OTT market is still at a nascent stage, with most players still fine tuning their business models. A single window will be a welcome development. The challenge remains in being able to get an effective and credible cross-media measurement platform. That said, even while there is no single body today there are different metrics that each platform uses to assess watch time/engagement - the fact that advertisers continue to grow their spends on OTT platforms in a big way indicates that there is already credibility and acceptance of this new medium.”

According to ZEE5, the platform helps their brand partners engage with their audience in a contextual and relevant manner and this engagement is further hyper-personalised and served to their audience by talking to Segment of One in a 100 per cent brand safe environment. Says Taranjeet Singh, Chief Revenue Officer and Business Head, ZEE5 India, “As India’s largest ConTech brand, it’s our responsibility to be transparent to ourselves and advertisers at large. The testament to that is our partnership with Moat & Nielsen DAR, and through our association, we intend to deliver the best accountability for our brands and partners on their advertising front.”

Meanwhile, brands believe that a robust independent measurement system will support efficient spends and encourage them to advertise bigger and better.

Aman Dhall, Head, Communications, PolicyBazaar.com, says: “For OTT to gain from digital spends of advertisers, the industry would need to focus on what marketers want - they want to understand exactly how much returns are they achieving from their spends. In short, performance marketing will be the norm ahead for OTT, and a standard metric will only enable it to become an integral part of India Inc's media planning."

The challenges are plenty, which is also evident from BARC India’s delay in launching its digital viewership measurement system promised a few years back. 

 Bindu Balakrishnan, Country Head, DCMN, breaks down the challenges. She explains how the OTT industry is currently highly fragmented, and each uses a different metric to measure the success of a campaign. There is also a lack of consensus on what the marketer or an agency would like to see measured and how. The tracking challenge is further complicated as people use the same OTT account with family and friends, who live in the same household or in a different city or country. 

 The instances of fraud are also contributing to a lack of confidence in programmatic OTT, she adds. “It is estimated that roughly 20 per cent of the OTT inventory is estimated to be fraudulent, with device spoofing being the main culprit. More and more OTT services are being released across a limited few app stores, and tracking down fraud across them is a huge challenge. Fake traffic often inflates video view and completion metrics, which can compromise the results of any measurement platform,” Balakrishnan said.

Vishal Chinchankar, Chief Digital Officer, Madison Media, says: “While OTT is gaining penetration in the country, it’s important to have a common measurement system. Today, while OTTs can measure hard KPIs like - views, VTR etc, there is no common source which reports Reach and Frequency across all OTT’s, unlike in TV where we have BARC. Some of the OTT players are walled garden and hence there is no third party who can give deterministic output, which is one of the biggest reason why it is imperative to really have a measurement body with common currency across all these platforms.” 

A common measurement system would be great for brands and advertisers, believes Mihir Mehta, AVP – Digital Planning and Buying, iProspect India, as it would help them identify their unique audience and to do their reach and frequency planning more effectively. He, however, puts the onus on OTT platforms to stop building walled gardens and passing data back to a common source instead.

 He says, “Today, when OTT is gaining penetration in the country, it is very important to have a common measurement system. One might be aware of the terminology (CPM, CPV, CPCV) used among all the OTT platforms when it comes to measurement, but there is no common source which can help one with reach and frequency planning. Everybody is working in silos and creating their own reach and frequency models. The industry has been discussing the gap and the need for having a common measurable currency and platform but that will take some more time to become a reality. A lot of OTT platforms work on different models like AVOD, SVOD and AVOD + SVOD and the consumption of content is also not linear which makes it difficult to identify unique users on mobile and desktop.”

 exchange4media’s upcoming OTT focused event titled 'One Demand Video & Audio Content Awards and Conference ' slated for March 2020, will be holding in depth discussions on similar industry challenges, possible solutions and more with stakeholders from the OTT sector. 

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