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How popular is your content… really?

Wared Seger, CEO and co-founder, Parrot Analytics

Wared_Seger_Nov16Before the advent of writing, it was storytelling that connected, educated and entertained people of all ages and backgrounds. Yet it is unfortunate that one of the world’s oldest relationships has lost much of its romance. While the internet has facilitated an unprecedented ability for content creators to reach consumers directly, today’s truth is that storytellers and their audiences have never been farther apart.

Look at television – arguably the most influential storytelling medium of the past 50 years. For decades, consumers had no choice but to watch the same television show on the same channel at the same time. In that paradigm, it was relatively easy for the industry to agree on what ‘popular’ meant.

Fast-forward to 2016. There is now more television content being produced than ever before, as well as more viewers and more distribution channels for that content.

With more choices for content and distribution channels, consumers are more in control of what, when and where they watch and engage in content than in any point in the history of television.

Still, the industry’s biggest challenge does not lie in its fragmentation – every industry undergoes major fracturing and subsequent consolidation. Television’s biggest challenge has emerged as a simple question: how popular is your show… really?

For a content-driven industry, understanding content popularity drives an estimated US$800 billion in decision making across the value chain: from production to acquisitions and advertising. Yet such a fundamental question has become seemingly impossible to answer.

More than 3.4 billion people are now connected to the internet, yet in the world’s largest television market, the United States, national television ratings are based on a panel of less than 30,000 homes. You will find the same story around the world. Enter a rapidly fragmenting OTT landscape, however, and an entire global industry of audience measurement is now failing to address the industry’s most basic need: understanding the global popularity of content.

We are just beginning to recognise that consumers express their interest for and interact with content brands in many different ways and on a multitude of platforms. In the process, the industry is also recognising that looking at traditional ratings alone is missing an entire dimension of how audiences express their demand for content and, thus, opportunities to monetise that demand.

Understanding the demand for content provides a value-adding layer of insight on top of traditional (or, often, nonexistent) audience-measurement metrics.

In 2014 we were lucky enough to have early partners like BBC Worldwide back our new data service. One test then was to discover the level of interest in South Korea for Doctor Who when traditional research suggested that opportunities in the highly localised region were minimal. The results showed large untapped local demand for the TV show.

True enough, when a promotional world tour for Doctor Who in 2014 added Seoul as a destination, 50,000 people signed up to purchase the 4,000 tickets available.

It could have been easy to dismiss the demand data as unreliable. After all, it was not traditional viewing that we measured. It was audience ‘demand’ that was captured by using artificial intelligence to sift through, combine and analyse billions of data points representing new ways that fans interact with content – through video-streaming sites, social media, blogs, fan sites, wikis, file sharing and peer-to-peer networks.

‘Demand Measurement’ is rapidly becoming a global standard for understanding content popularity across platforms, but it took world-class early adopters operating at the intersection of media, science and technology to bring it to life.

Now more than any time in our history, despite the fractured state of the television industry, we have access to information about audiences’ true demand for content around the world, looking through opaque walls and challenging outdated systems.
So, before buying or selling your next television show, ask yourself: How popular is it… really?