By Ali Zaslav

          What’s Changed in TV Distribution?

In the television business, distribution is the key component in making content accessible and viewable by consumers on traditional and new platforms. Distribution is not only the way programming reaches audiences, but is a large component of programmers and distributors business models.

laptop_ipad_iphoneTraditionally TV distribution used to be much simpler; it was primarily through TV and consumed on the TV set. In this old media structure there were barriers to reaching consumers, (you would have to own a network or have a program carried by one). Today broadband allows for video content to be carried and viewed on the web. Countless individuals and companies can now reach viewers in new ways with all types of video content.

promo-tv-everywhereTelevision is still the primary way people consume video but new devices and new content are beginning to change consumers viewing behavior.  Viewers can watch traditional TV or now have the option to aggregate their favorite videos through many new options like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, or TV Everywhere and watch them on their TV, or a tablet, phone or computer. The rise of new platforms to distribute TV content through DVR and VOD plus online viewership has resulted in a number of exciting developments for programmers and distributors, as well as real threats and challenges.

cableRight now television content distribution can be broken down into three categories: traditional distributors, new challenging distributors, and programmers that try to take advantage of all avenues of distribution.  Programmers now distribute through the traditional multi-channel operators (Time Warner), phone companies (Verizon & AT&T) and satellite distributors (like Dish and DirectTV) and new avenues like apps, TV Everywhere through a cable operator or digital offerings like Netflix.

Traditional Distributors in the TV Market

MSO’s, satellite, and phone companies are actively trying to delve into the growing market of cross platform viewing and video streaming. A recent development is TV Everywhere.

xfinity_logoComcast successfully released Xfinity on demand and struck deals with cable networks, broadcasters, and pay TV to stream their content online for Comcast subscribers. Applications like TV Everywhere are being released by a multitude of distributors, allowing consumers to stream their carried programming on any tablet, phone or computer. Time Warner now has TWC TV and Cablevision has TVtoGO.  Phone companies also provide online streaming; Verizon streams FiOS TV and AT&T streams U-verse.

directv everywhere

In February, DirectTV joined the online game and released DirectTV Everywhere. For traditional distributors, “TV Everywhere” has become an important part of their distribution model. But their applications have a lot of competition coming from Netflix, HuluPlus and Amazon which offer library’s of content and more recently original or exclusive programming.

Rising Challengers to Traditional Distributors


The development of broadband as a vehicle for video has spurred huge entrepreneurial investment in companies like Netflix, Apple, Amazon, Hulu, YouTube as well as user-generated content. Traditional distributors are being challenged by new online distribution channels like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, Apple TV, and Google (YouTube). These distributors are offering very appealing services to consumers and at low costs (Netflix & HuluPlus: both $8 a month and Amazon Prime $79/ yearly), or in the case of the web, Google or YouTube for free (you only need to have broadband). In addition, there is easy access through many devices like the computer, Xbox, iPad, etc with a wide range of content. We know this is appealing to consumers since Netflix recently grew to almost 28 million subscribers[1].house-of-cards-poster

For the past few years Netflix, Amazon and HuluPlus have provided old shows, almost like a library service. This year Netflix shook up its programming strategy when it released original content “House of Cards”. They did what no distributor or programmer has done before: presenting an entire television series “House of Cards” to subscribers upfront.  The viewer can than choose to watch the show all at once or at their own pace instead of once a week. In some ways, this strategy makes Netflix a competitor to HBO and cable channels. It also has blurred the lines as to what kind of company Netflix is: a distributor or original programmer? Further following a similar lead, Amazon is now promoting that they have exclusive content that you can only find and watch on Amazon[2].

apple_tv_boxApple’s release of the Apple TV has further blurred the lines of traditional distribution; offering the perks of online streaming and TV together. Further Hulu Plus and other services are offered on the Apple TV [3]. These advancements have changed how the media works and how television content is distributed to consumers. Netflix offering original content, the Apple TV, Hulu Plus and Amazon’s exclusive content offerings shows how fast things are transforming in the distribution and video content business
  TV Programming Distribution Strategies
Broadcast and cable networks, to stay competitive, have been dabbing into online streaming, tablet apps, and phone applications. Most cable networks do their best to offer applications that distribute some recent episodes, behind the scenes clips, best of clips, etc. However cable networks tend to limit the amount of long-form content because the distributors they partner with would not pay them as high of a sub fee for their programming. A critical part of the business model for cable programming services is maintaining a strong sub fee with distributors.

[15]Cable channels like A&E, Discovery, History, Lifetime and many others have iPad applications. Disney offers “Watch” to stream ESPN and Disney Channel to computers and other devices [4]. Recently on the broadcast side, broadcasters have been making more content available on their websites and through services like Hulu.  Since broadcast don’t rely on sub fees they have been much more aggressive in moving their content to other platforms than cable. And just this month ABC and CBS both came out with tablet applications to stream their television series.


Distributors have been and must adapt to new technologies, platforms and consumer demands.  Despite the buzz that cable and broadcast are “dying mediums,” the Neilson graph below shows that while online viewership is increasing, people are still consuming a large percent of content on the TV set[5]eeeee

The real measure of the success of TV distributors will be how well their offerings satisfy consumer interests in viewing content how and when they want too. If the traditional distributors don’t provide it, new companies like Netflix and Apple will meet that demand.



Audience Measurement & Advertising

by Merin Pasternak

Stephen White, Founder and Chairman, EMM International, a global media management performance and auditing consultancy, says it best, “Audience behaviour is vastly more complex and variable than before and audience measurement technology is like the quest for renewable clean energy.”  We have always seen that old is replaced by new technologies.[1]  First there were paper diaries that were replaced by electronic versions such as Computer Assisted Telephone Interviewing and people meters, and then followed Audience Establishment Survey that could determine size and composition of a large sample audience.  It was predicted that online and social would be able to one day measure themselves.  However, there have been some problems with this theory as page visits and Ad hits are not black and white, measurement systems are not always compatible, and there has never been a metric system that could seamlessly integrate TV, online and mobile.

Overview of Current Environment

Today’s media environment has drastically fragmented and is ever changing, from the once limited selection of TV channels.  Companies must identify the factors that impact average media consumers.  There are three forces in particular that must be quantified:

  • New sources of information: always update sources as new data forms we have not yet seen will continue to emerge.  
  • New forms of media: brings social websites into view as having social ads, as the line between content and advertising are blurred.

    Source: g4tv.com

  • New screens: Conventional examples include theTV,Laptop, and even Mobile, but the tablet experience is new to us.  There are already discussions about Google lass – augmented reality coming soon as an additional fifth screen that will require a separate strategy. [2]

Multi-Screen Measurement System

comScore Approach

On October 16, 2012 comScore, Inc. (NASDAQ: SCOR), an internet company measuring how people navigate the digital world, revealed that a new solution to providing data of impressions delivered across TV, web, and mobile platforms.  This unique multi-screen measurement system is known as validated Campaign EssentialTM Multi-Platform (vCE MP).  This groundbreaking process enables marketing and media companies the information necessary to receive accurate performances indications of ad campaign delivery across all digital screens.  Specifically, reports include individual based demographics, frequency and gross ratings points (GRPs), used to measure the size of an audience reached by a specific media campaign.  This process has created a standard that is equivalent across different media platforms and channels. [3]

“Existing cross-platform solutions are limited by the use of traditional panel-based measurement … comScore’s census-based multi-platform methodology delivers … a campaign analytics product that is both robust and comprehensive enough to address the key questions our clients are asking.” Cameron Meierhoefer, COO of comScore.

vCE MP Key Product Features

  • Unduplicated Person-Based Measurement of Audiences Across Platforms.  vCE MP is not based on cookie measurements of reach, frequency and GRPs, so it is not skewed due to the increase in cookies across multiple devices.  This solves a major problem for marketers who depend on these calculations for advertising allocations of TV, web, and mobile platforms.
  • Campaign Reporting for TV, Web, Smartphones and Tablets.  Currently, the solutions are not effectively reporting to the mobile screens, which have now become an essential part of today’s digital media landscape.
  • Multi-Platform Unification Using the comScore Census Network.  The product’s informational resource is based on the comScore Census Network, which uses census data points to piece together multiple media platforms into one consolidated index of digital consumer behavior and ad exposure.
  • Robust Sample Sizes.  comScore Census Network has the large advantage to observe digital media at a census-level, with sample sizes numbering in the millions rather than limited hundreds.
  • National TV Data from 5 Million U.S. Households.  It is also noteworthy that advertising information from 5 million U.S. households’ TV set-top boxes is integrated into data collection.
  • Viewability Measurement.  This refers to display ads based on comScore’s MRC accredited vCE technology ensuring that impressions are based on the same ‘opportunity to see’ used in TV measurement.

comScore vCE for Video Can Now Include Viewability in Addition to Audience Validation for Online Video Market, Improving Cross-Media Integration with TV. 

Nielsen Approach

Nielsen has also expanded its multi-screen audience measurement capabilities.  Nielsen has already arranged a series of in-depth tests with Cross Platform Campaign Ratings.  They have used advertising’s largest players such as ESPN, Facebook, GroupM, Hulu and Unilever.  These participants have allowed for unprecedented reach, frequency and GRP measurements for TV and Internet to ensure the best test results. [4]

The move to Cross Platform Campaign Ratings is a direct result of consumers and viewers interacting on a more cross-platform basis than ever before.  The typical American spends close to five hours online and watches more than 34 hours of TV per week, over half watch video online. [5]

Steve Hasker, President of Global Media Products and Advertiser Solutions for Nielsen, explains that “Online Campaign Ratings is the first comprehensive advertising measurement system that has existed … It brings is a whole new level of accuracy to online measurement.”  Online Campaign Ratings allows advertisers to demand and publishers to give guarantees based on viewers that are being bought and sold. [6]

OCR Key Attributes

  • Automated tagging – streamlines the end‑to‑end process.
  • Delivery of data in raw form to different platforms.
  • Adaptiveness to the measurement system by industry standards.

Role of Social Media

Facebook Tie-Ins

With the introduction of Nielsen’s new gross rating points (GRP) for Online Campaign Ratings (OCR) there are significant tie-ins with social media sites.  For example, Facebook data including gender and age are being combined with information from online advertising impressions to increase target effectiveness and improve monitoring of online advertisements.  This new technology allows for video intelligence suites to focus on specific Ad effectiveness, which differs from mainstream platforms that merely take into account predetermined delivery goals, margins and efficiencies.  Companies such as VideoHub, are able to monitor complex ecosystems in order to actively match Ads to the correct viewers, achieve marketing goals, and maximize impact.  The standard metric used to measure advertisement effectiveness to this point has been clicks, which are not at all accurate or up to date with current consumer usage.  This emphasizes the great importance of this new technological breakthrough in measurement systems.

Google Joins the GRP Movement

Google hopes to help standardize how digital advertisements are purchased and measured.  This aims to facilitate Ad agencies and brands to compare the performance of offline with online Ad initiatives.  In the attempt to achieve these goals Google has launched two new initiatives Active View and Active GRP, which are both available for display, content networks and YouTube.  This enables companies to purchase “viewable impressions.”

The Social Economy

Today, social capital and intellectual assets are defined by online and real world activity.  Participating in online communities and creating content that others are seeking, individuals are able to build an online brand, reputation and persona that transcends both the digital and actual world. [7]

The social economy and its landscape is creating vast opportunities for companies to reach consumers by engaging in conversations, thus allowing organizations to generate more in depth comprehension and form specifically targeted recommendations for consumers.  McKinsey Global Institute report shows that 72% of companies are using social technologies, the vast majority are not attaining the entire benefit. [8]

Mobile Measurement

Source: comScore

On November 12, 2012 Facebook revealed its new partner in mobile measurement – Localytics.  Specifically, Localytics reports engagement, retention and contribution to consumers value over a lifetime.

Localytics is built for mobile & tablet apps. This allows for event and screen tracking used to analyze conversion funnels, screen flows, feature usage, content

access, advertising performance, and much more.

Localytics is designed to measure apps, providing the greatest accuracy and lightest footprint. Apps differer from websites, offering richer experiences and integration.  Different from website and television, apps function offline and are essential for multitasking.  Apps have access to key data collection (geotagging, storage, accelerometers, etc.  Other key advantages include:


  • Complete user analysis to identify effective sources for growth.
  • Category based engagement and retention analysis.
  • Tracking of buying patterns and/or subscriptions.
  • Advertising APIs for integration optimize promotional campaigns.
  • App usage, screen flow, and event analysis that track performance levels and consumer interface with functionality.
  • Compliant with Facebook data and privacy policies. [9]

 (Source: Localytics)  [10]

Coming Up Next for Social Media

The Newsfeed is a key component that has not yet been tapped into by advertisers, but is on the near horizon.  This would allow the greatest amplification where brand messages can serve as a channel for exposure to “Friends” within respective social networks.  We are already seeing that Facebook’s mobile newsfeed ads are a great success with advertisers, and also allow for companies to acquire Facebook fans.  These new initiatives will enable companies to gauge who, where and why specific users engage and amplify certain brand messages.  This is why the newsfeed is classified as the “tipping point” when digital and social advertisements converge and result in a tangible and quantifiable return on investment.


[1] Twishy. (2012, October 23). Audience data powers our industry: Stephen white . Retrieved from http://www.exchange4media.com/48513_audience-data-powers-our-industry-stephen-white.html

[2] Owyang, J. (2012, May 21). Altimeter research theme: The dynamic customer journey. Retrieved from http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/2012/05/21/altimeter-research-theme-the-dynamic-customer-journey/

[3] comscore introduces revolutionary multi-platform campaign analytics solution to measure advertising effectiveness across tv, web and mobile. (2012, October 16). Retrieved from http://www.comscore.com/Insights/Press_Releases/2012/10/comScore_Introduces_Revolutionary_Multi-Platform_Campaign_Analytics_Solution_to_Measure_Advertising_Effectiveness_Across_TV_Web_and_Mobile

[4] Rodgers, Z. (2012, October 1). Nielsen, comscore move faster on multi-screen audience measurement. Retrieved from http://www.adexchanger.com/data-exchanges/nielsen-comscore-move-faster-on-multi-screen-audience-measurement/

[5] Delivering true multi-screen ad measurement, nielsen brings new solution to market. (2012, October 1). Retrieved from http://www.nielsen.com/us/en/insights/press-room/2012/delivering-true-multi-screen-ad-measurement.html

[6] Rodgers, Z. (2012, October 1). Nielsen, comscore move faster on multi-screen audience measurement. Retrieved from http://www.adexchanger.com/data-exchanges/nielsen-comscore-move-faster-on-multi-screen-audience-measurement/

[7] Solis, B. (2012, March 3). Social capital: The currency of the social economy. Retrieved from http://www.briansolis.com/2010/03/social-capital-the-currency-of-digital-citizens/

[8] Chui, M., Manyika, J., Bughin, J., Dobbs, R., Roxburgh, C., Sarrazin, H., Sands, G., & Westergren, M. (2012, July 1). The social economy: Unlocking value and productivity through social technologies. Retrieved from http://www.mckinsey.com/insights/mgi/research/technology_and_innovation/the_social_economy

[9] Facebook mobile app install ads now measured by localytics. (2012, November 12). Retrieved from http://pymnts.com/news/businesswire-feed/2012/november/12/facebook-mobile-app-install-ads-now-measured-by-localytics-20121112005546/

[10] Localytics. (Producer). (2012). Accessing your s3 bucket. [Web Video]. Retrieved from http://player.vimeo.com/video/34370949?title=0&byline=0&portrait=0;autoplay=1