In a significant development that breaks new ground for audience measurement in the UK, the free-to-air satellite service Freesat has launched a live audience measurement service using set-top box return path data from 100,000 homes – those with IP-connected STBs who have also opted in to share the data. The service returns behavioural information related to real-time broadcast linear viewing plus time-shifted (using the local DVR hard drive) and on-demand viewing (which is streamed over IP). The data can be segmented by location as well as viewing duration and resolution (e.g. standard-definition or HD viewing).
STB return path data underpins advanced advertising technologies like addressable TV advertising and also sophisticated data insights businesses that are being developed in the Pay TV market. Broadcasters and advertisers will eventually want some of the same capabilities from the free-to-air markets, which in Europe still account for huge chunks of all broadcast TV viewing and a growing volume of on-demand sessions via ‘player’ apps integrated into hybrid broadcast broadband (HBB) devices.
Freesat is used in over 1.9 million households and is watched by more than four million viewers every week. For the sub-set of homes returning data, the system provides accurate viewing figures and will give channel executives and other users new datasets on which to derive insights from audiences. “For the first time, broadcasters will have the opportunity to act on the data in real-time – such as by optimising programming within and around a show while it is still airing,” Freesat claims. Alistair Thom, Managing Director of Freesat, believes this kind of real-time, granular measurement system will help to maintain a robust free-to-air TV market in the UK.
The new measurement system runs on what is described as a ground-breaking audience attribution platform developed by TVbeat. Return path data is captured and then processed instantaneously by TVbeat’s powerful platform. The resulting data sets are displayed on a simple online dashboard that can be easily interrogated to return detailed insights within moments.
For channel executives and other decision-makers, Freesat’s new audience measurement service provides:
- Audience Flow – Insight into programming crossover showing, for instance, viewers who move across channels and on-demand services to watch particular programmes
- Audience Retention – The ability to identify if an audience returns week-on-week for a new TV show
- Limitless Time-Shifted Data – Broadcasters can observe data on time-shifted viewing, based on PVR usage within a user-defined timeframe, rather than relying solely on the traditional 7-day window
- VOD Impact – Granular visibility of services like iPlayer, ITV Hub, All 4 (the popular online ‘player’ services from the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 respectively) Netflix, YouTube and other on-demand services.
Thom continues: “We are delighted to have worked with TVbeat to develop and test a really innovative service. The insights provided by a combination of real-time data, scale and granularity will, we believe, have a significant and positive effect on the broadcast industry. More importantly, it will benefit viewers, as it enables broadcasters to respond quickly and precisely to their preferences. We look forward to working with TVbeat, broadcasters and others to harness the extraordinary potential of the data.”
Robert Farazin, Founder of TVbeat, adds: “We believe the future of TV is about generating the most relevant cross-screen experience and leveraging real-time audience data. With Freesat’s deep, raw datasets, and TVbeat’s fast and efficient platform, we are able to process and contextualise data and provide insights which will be of immense value to broadcasters and programme makers both now and in the future.”
New Freesat hybrid set-top boxes include the measurement software and users opt in using an on-screen prompt during the initial device set-up. Devices in the field are upgraded via an over-the-air software download, with users given the same on-screen option to share data.