Are third party analytics enough for OTT measurement?

In the absence of an industry-backed measurement system for the OTT space, industry experts explain why analytics provided by private players may not be enough in the long run

e4m by Shikha Paliwal
Updated: Jan 6, 2020 8:36 AM

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The popularity of over the top (OTT) video streaming platforms in India have, without a doubt, given advertisers an effective medium to reach out to consumers. With the exception of some subscription-based platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime, most OTT players are dependent on advertising as a source of revenue. However, the lack of a common, industry supported, digital viewership measurement system, insist industry experts, is hampering the full potential for advertising on OTT.

Unlike the straightforward approach of measurement on traditional mediums like Television and Print, which are supported by industry accepted bodies like BARC and IRS respectively, the paradigm of measurement on digital is different and more complex.

In the absence of a unified measurement currency, advertisers are therefore dependent on the data provided by the individual platforms or third parties like Nielsen DAR, Moat, App Annie etc. Recently, Kantar, a data insights and consulting company, too has partnered with an audience measurement and analytics company VTIONTM to roll out OTT audience measurement. The obvious question then arises: If there are already tools that are available to help marketers measure ROI and analyse spends, is it not enough?

“The issue is not the OTT space alone but all of digital,” says Ashish Bhasin, CEO, APAC, and Chairman, India, Dentsu Aegis Network. “Like I’ve always said digital should have been the most measurable medium. For example, the same thing would apply to YouTube, not just OTT. While we have agreed upon common metrics for TV which has BARC and for print there is IRS, we haven’t even agreed on common metrics or measurement for digital video. As an industry we need to come together agree upon and evolve a common currency. We need to agree on common metrics which are lacking and OTT would get covered in that as well.”

Explaining why analytics provided by private players may not be enough, he further adds, “A common metric at an industry level in India has to be agreed upon. Individual private players will show their own research but that is not industry recognized or industry sponsored research. If an individual player says it’s a certain viewership it’s never going to be the same as an industry agreed body or industry supported body which has a common agreed platform which all players subscribe to. There are 3 key stakeholders - there are clients, publishers/broadcasters and the agencies, there has to be a consensus amongst them. BARC is a good example where, in a sense, all three are co-owners or stakeholders in that. A similar consensus needs to be evolved for digital which will include OTT.”

On their part most OTT platforms have always welcomed the idea of a common measurement system but reiterate that an absence of one hasn’t hampered growth due to transparency provided by them. Says Divya Dixit, Senior VP, Marketing, ALTBalaji, “As the OTT industry is still in the nascent stage, there are constant experiments being done in terms of the content offerings, connecting with advertisers or brands, possible revenue lines through various business models and new engagement routes for viewers. In the absence of a unified measurement system, OTT platforms are transparently setting up ad-suites and various metrics to provide the clear cut data that advertisers require. The success of this approach can be witnessed from the growth of advertising revenue as well as brand integrations across digital platforms whether SVOD or AVOD. With the pace that OTT industry is growing, it is a testament that they have already built credibility for themselves in the market for segmented consumer approach and ROI. Having said that, in the long run, a unified measurement system will definitely benefit raising the monetization game of the digital platforms.”

Given the nature of the digital medium, Siddhartha Roy, COO, Hungama Digital Media, said OTT platforms are in fact able to provide comprehensive insights to brands to help them optimise their spends. “Data is the fuel that powers content strategy and business decisions in the video streaming sector. Through their respective analytics and measurement systems, OTT platforms are able to understand the audience preferences for stories, characters, narratives, formats, scenes and themes. Further, the platforms are also able to gather valuable insights related to consumer engagement with brands, products and placements,” he elaborated.

Roy further explains how individualism is also beneficial for advertisers as they are able to make more informed decisions based on insights that go beyond simple viewership figures. “Unlike television which is a linear medium and follows a one-size-fits-all approach towards programming, digital players customise content for even niche audiences. This makes it all the more critical for different platforms to select measurement systems that can help them get insights specific to the audiences that they cater to. A standardized analysis system, like in the case of television, might be able to give an understanding of viewership and other broad data sets, but might not be able to highlight audience preferences and habits with precision. Digital data is extremely complex and each platform needs analytics best suited for its unique and distinctive needs,” he added.

As things stand, the prediction for growth in several studies published for India’s OTT space have been impressive. According to PwC’s Global Entertainment & Media Outlook 2019–2023, India’s OTT video market was set to grow at 21.8 per cent CAGR from Rs 4,464 crore in 2018 to Rs 11,976 crore in 2023. Last year, KPMG in their India’s Media and Entertainment report titled India’s Digital Future, Mass of niches stated that advertising growth will also be driven by the digital billion coming onto the online video bandwagon, with close to 580 million OTT consumers by FY24, spending over 30 minutes on online video platforms per day. The report had also stated that with the proposed third party digital measurement systems coming into place in India over the next 12 months, the CPMs (which are under pressure due to growth in inventory) were also likely to see some growth from FY21 onwards, contributing to the overall growth of the segment.

Pointing out how transparency will be key for growth in the OTT space, Suraj Nambiar, Managing Partner & Media Head, India, Tonic Worldwide, says: “OTT platforms will have to move to a self-serve planning and execution platform like Google and Facebook. This will help these platforms be more transparent and compete for a larger share of the media pie. There are few OTT platforms that now allow us data segmentation and we will see this improve.”

Speaking about the effectiveness of independent third party analytics tools, Shradha Agarwal, COO & Co-founder, Grapes Digital, shares that they have been useful in ensuring success for their media campaigns but a common measurement tool would help understand competition better. “Today there are very well known parties like Google, Neilsen, Sizemek etc., who helps us in tracking impressions, users and other key demographic and behavioural data on OTT platforms for your campaigns. In fact, we are using them for various client of ours. This helps us in ensuring that the campaign is delivered to the right target audience with the right targeting parameters. Any deviation is reported immediately and we optimise our campaigns on real-time basis. But, on the other hand it’s also true that there is no such common tool like television monitoring where we can get reports on advertising data of our competition or any other brand on that publisher. This way our planning is only based on our past campaign learnings and publisher over all data points,” she said.

Experts also believe that traditional brands would especially benefit from industry-backed measurement system. Saisangeeta Israni, GM-Marketing, Spykar Lifestyles, says: “Till date we've trusted platform-centric reports. Having a credible third party intervention to monitor and report definitely instils more confidence on spends.”

“A common measurement system that gives the report across all media, will definitely be a boon for advertisers, so as the impact of overall spends can be assessed in consolidation,” she added.
Reiterating the urgency for a measurement system for the digital space, which includes OTT, Ashish Bhasin explains that a lack of common consensus is the reason for the delay and that some of the stakeholders would have to take the lead. He says, “We must stop waiting for perfection, we must get it 80-90 per cent right and get it off the ground rather than keep on arguing about how to perfect it.”

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