Group Created with Sketch.
Volume 20 No. 46
  • Created with Sketch.
  • Created with Sketch.
  • Created with Sketch.

Do online video views measure up?

NBCUniversal President and CEO Steve Burke rankled some TV executives earlier this year when he remarked during Comcast’s fourth quarter earnings call that 70 percent of the total views for “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon” occurred online.

The late-night NBC show has made its mark by producing short comedy skits that are shared easily online the next day, and Burke was looking to get more ad revenue for those clips. But TV executives say that the comparison of those short video clips to the hourlong TV show doesn’t make sense. At least not yet.

“The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon” produces short comedy skits that get shared extensively online.
Photo by: Douglas Gorenstein / NBC
“It’s a comparison that always works to the disadvantage of TV because your length of tuning on TV tends to be a lot longer than it is on these bite-sized, snackable digital clips,” said Mike Mulvihill, Fox Sports senior vice president of programming and research.

“It’s not credible to say that views across platforms have equal value,” Mulvihill said. “When you consider how the metrics are different, when you consider how much more time is spent on the television platform, it’s like saying 10 pennies is worth more than $8 because you have more of them. You can’t equate the two.”

TV networks are calling for online video views to be measured on an average audience per minute basis — “the currency that’s been established in television for the last six decades,” said Artie Bulgrin, ESPN’s senior vice president of research and analytics.

Nielsen executives have said that the company plans to come out with a “total audience measurement” rating by the end of the year, which will use one equivalized metric that can be used across multiple platforms. Essentially, it will create a rating that makes it easier to compare the amount of people watching linear TV and digital video.

ComScore’s recent purchase of Rentrak will lead to a similar measurement.

TV executives are pushing for these new metrics, since online video views are counted so differently from television. Snapchat, for example, counts a video view after two seconds of continuous viewing; Facebook after three seconds. Given those metrics, TV executives are not surprised to see the social media companies tout tens of millions of video views.

But social audiences are not the same as television’s. Mulvihill pointed to a YouTube clip Fox Soccer created from when Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski scored five goals in 10 minutes. The minute-long clip attracted 1.9 million views — a number that appears to be bigger than the 1.6 million people who watched an MLB game on Fox last weekend.

But Mulvihill cautions against such comparisons.

“The 1.9 million YouTube views equated to 2 million minutes of viewing; the 1.6 million viewers for the 3 1/2-hour baseball game equated to 328 million minutes of consumption,” Mulvihill said. “The baseball game has 160 times more time spent. I think it’s a fair comparison and I think that it’s a lot more helpful.”

ESPN, which also wants to see video views measured on an average audience per minute basis, said that its digital performance sometimes is higher than television, even on the average per minute audience metric. Bulgrin cited Sept. 13, the NFL’s opening weekend, when ESPN Digital’s 42.7 million unique users accounted for an average audience of 1.3 million per minute — higher than any cable network that day. By comparison, ESPN had an average audience of 1.2 million per minute, USA Network had 1 million and ABC Family had 979,000.

“Mobile is enabling large audiences that are amassing very high levels of reach very quickly,” Bulgrin said. “We’re no longer just dependent on desktop and being at work or at home on your desktop. They are producing now sizable average minute audiences, comparable to television.”