For Tom Weiss, CEO of data analytics firm Genius Digital, the biggest insight from the new Multiscreen Insights service his company launched at IBC 2016 has been what he terms the discovery of “multi-modal viewing.”
Multiscreen Insights, which integrates with the existing Genius Digital Insight platform, allows operators to access a single source from which they can measure and analyse consumption on all of the devices across their network – instead of having to run separate analytics platforms for each type using different metrics. Weiss described it as a “true multiscreen” product, arguing that “when people say ‘multiscreen’ what they mean is ‘everything except for the TV’. When we say ‘multiscreen’, we mean everything.”
The holistic view this affords the system’s users – demonstrated at IBC through a user-friendly dashboard created for one anonymous operator that overlaid multiscreen data on top of core set-top box data – is one of the features that has led Weiss and his team to change their assumptions about how viewers behave in a multiscreen environment.
“We’ve always thought that people prefer consuming on one method,” Weiss explains. “People might prefer live or prefer DVR or prefer OTT. But the big insight for us is that actually the most engaged subscribers, the most engaged viewers, watch on lots of different platforms. […] It seems to be that people just like the content and they follow the content. Only about 12% will exclusively use OTT. The vast majority, certainly the most engaged people, will watch the same show, live, DVR, VOD, and OTT, whatever it is they need to do to be able to watch it.”
For Weiss, this insight into ‘multi-modal’ viewing habits means that operators have to think about multiscreen in a different way. Citing Sky’s Now TV as an example of a standalone ‘OTT cord-cutter service’, he observes, “you might think it’s cannibalistic. But with this multi-modal viewing we would definitely say ‘yes, launch OTT, launch all these things’. But you’ve got to understand that what you really want to do is get people viewing the same content on multiple platforms. You want it to be seamless.”
The addition of true multiscreen analytics capability to the Genius Digital Insights solution has been complemented by improved scalability.
Weiss points out that “this time last year we had clients with around 100,000 devices”, whereas currently, “for our biggest customer we’re processing data for two million set-top boxes every day.”
He admits it wasn’t easy to achieve this step-change in data-processing complexity and volume. “The journey that we’ve had has really been on the engineering side: a lot of energy has been focused on ‘how do you get it working for two million?’. We’ve had to make a lot of changes to our architecture, it’s really difficult.”
While Genius Digital is now able to provide ‘census-level’ insights across large multiscreen platforms, Weiss admits that it remains challenging to separate individual consumption from household consumption. “It’s a really, really difficult question to answer,” says Weiss. “If the question is ‘do we have statistical models that estimate it ?’, then the answer is ‘yes’. We’ve got this rolling out at the moment in a couple of markets, one of which is Saudi Arabia.”
However, Weiss implies that the solution there is not yet delivering satisfactory results, in part because the ‘unconventional family structures’ there render the estimates of viewer identity unreliable.
While in theory, the Genius system should also be able to offer more accurate viewing levels for smaller niche channels that are believed to be under-represented on traditional TV audience panels, Weiss says that “sometimes when we do the comparisons, some channels do better and some channels do worse. That’s all I can say, looking at [the data]. It’s not true that the big channels always go down.” However, the analytics do offer “more consistency” [than traditional panels] in how the smaller channels perform, he says.
Photo: Genius Digital provides a range of insights into user behaviour; this one shows how people get to a channel.