I had lunch recently with an executive at one of the largest multiplatform networks. He expressed the opinion that the television advertising market would collapse if advertisers had accurate data regarding the extent to which DVR-equipped viewers are skipping ads. This may or may not be true, but it is the case that measurement of television viewing habits seems mired in the Stone Age compared with the second-by-second viewing information that the internet delivers.
There are many reasons for this. Americans watch TV on a patchwork of cable and satellite networks. Each has several different set top boxes deployed at any given time, not all of which have internet connections. My friend would say, however, that this is finally beside the point: metrics haven’t improved because broadcasters don’t want them to. The television model is being squeezed from both ends. In order to shore up their advertising rates, broadcasters are clamoring for tools to measure viewership on mobile devices, on sets outside the home (e.g., bars and dorm rooms), and on PCs. Those same tools may, however, also reveal just how many viewers are not watching the advertisements that support the entire enterprise.