Category Archives: Ratings Analysis

Google Does Video Graphs

Well, it seems someone at Google is listening. Things can only get better.

I was checking out the videos at The WorldTV Internet Charts and clicked on one of the Google Videos. After watching the video I noticed that, just below the star ratings, it said “All time views: 712,721 »“. So you know I had to click on the little chevron symbol to see what lay beneath these numbers.

And Voilà!

Google Video Graphs

There they were… historic audience graphs for the last week, and a table showing the All time Views & Rank, as well as Yesterday’s Views & Rank, including how many were via email or embedded in blogs.

Hey, it’s not the Google TV Dashboard I wrote about, but it’s a start.

As a video producer or advertiser, I’d also like to know how many people watched the entire video and how long did the rest of the viewers watch. These graphs would look something like this (we could call it the “saddle-graph“):

Saddle Chart of View Completion

The name, of course, comes from the saddle shape of the graph. I haven’t seen one of these but I think it’s safe to say that while many viewers would stop watching a video at the beginning, those that kept watching would tend to stay until the end, given the time they had already invested in the video. That’s why you get the peak at 100%. In television, you tend to see graphs like these for shows that tell a story (and thus capture the viewer), while for other types of content you see more irregular graphs.

The Reports page for your uploaded videos still only shows a simple table with Page Views & Downloads. You can choose the time frame for the reports but that’s about all you get.

Page Views & Downloads at Google Video Advanced Reports

And the numbers you do get, don’t necessarily match the ones on the Video page. For example, my two videos of the Atlanta Aquarium show 1315 & 2873 Page Views on the Advanced Report page, but if I go to the actual link and watch the video, I see 1330 & 2957 respective All Time Views. Not exactly dependable, but I’m sure they will eventually get it right.

There’s more information at the Google Video Blog, including a great new way to add comments that link to exact points on a video (so if you think the funny bits begin after the first three-and-a-half boring minutes, you can link straight to them).

Want more articles related to this post? Check these out:

The Advertiser’s Dilemma

Rethinking Ratings

Why Google Should Buy YouTube

Google Media

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Blast From the Past – Multidimensional Data Analysis

About eight years ago, I was analyzing television ratings at a leading network in Venezuela… when I came up with the following graph (see below). Rendering took forever in Excel, but the resulting image was not only beautiful, but highly informative. I basically took the network’s audience share for every 15-minute interval throughout the day, for every day of the year, and produced an area map, where interesting patterns became obvious.

The colors you see indicate the audience share for each point in time… deep reds indicate less than 10-percent share, blues around 40-percent and greens above 70-percent. This market is mostly a two horse race, which is why you see such high percentages. From these graphs it was easy to see patterns (like the orange swath down the right side of the image, or the blue-green lagoons at the top left and the blue river down the right edge) indicating areas where the network’s programming was strong or weak.

With more computing power, I’d have taken this one step further, adding a third dimension to the graph to indicate the difference in audience share with our main competitor. That would have made a cool landscape… Soon we could even have the Himalayas indicating dominance across a time slot, the cold ocean depths (and, why not, a little model of the Titanic) indicating hopeless programming. In between, maybe some palm trees and a Corona.

Data visualization is a powerful tool, and when done correctly it can bring new insights into otherwise stale data sets.

Yearratings Small

Here’s a detailed view of the graph, showing the chart for ABC (income-level demographics), from 4:30 p.m. to midnight, from April 9, 1998 until April 30th of that same year. On the right is the legend, explaining the different colors.

Yearratings-Detail

I found these on an old backup DVD along with the original Excel files and thought it’d be nice to share them. Let me know if you like them. My brain seems to be wired for pattern-recognition, so I tend to enjoy and appreciate these graphs a great deal.

If you like multi-dimensional graphics, I highly recommend the work of Edward Tufte. Check out his website and browse through any of his books next time you visit your local bookstore.

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Two Interesting Articles from Advertising Age

Advertising Age has a couple of interesting articles today:

Ad Age Digital

User-Generated Video Gets Its Own TV Channel

According to this article, Fame TV is a new channel dedicated entirely to consumer-generated videos, airing on the BskyB satellite network in the UK and Ireland. Users can upload their videos for a $3 fee -there’s also a deal with Revver for content- and these will be aired using an innovative format: nine boxes will be on the screen at all times, each one showing a different video. Each box has a code so that viewers can vote via SMS for their favorite show. In the case of Revver videos, Revver will pay a percentage of the SMS revenues to each video creator.

I’m assuming that videos getting lots of SMS votes, will be aired more often to create even more revenue. Judging from the success of shows like “America’s Funniest Videos,” the success of the idea seems guaranteed. It’ll make for a great time-waster and sure beats channel surfing.

It will initially lack advertising, though a good idea would be to run advertising in the center box (an even better idea would be to user-generated advertising, a la CurrentTV’s V-CAM (Viewer Created Ad Messages)).

Locally, this would be a great idea for networks to fill an hour or two of late night infomercial infested air time.

and the other article is:

Ad Age Media Works
Why TV Needs Commercial Ratings — Now

CBS‘ Chief Research Officer, David F. Poltrack, explains in great detail why it’d be smart for the television networks to measure ratings by the number of people watching commercials instead of the number of people watching the shows.

While this may sound counterintuitive at first, he gives a detailed explanation oh what’s happening with DVRs. Viewers are increasingly using DVRs to watch TV shows at their convenience. As I’ve previously mentioned here, network competition is moot when you can record both competing shows and watch them both at a later time.

When viewers have a DVR, more of them watch the shows after the fact than live. And about 40% of these viewers actually watch the commercials. Well, according to Poltrack, these eyeballs are not being counted, since the current system relies on live viewings (because advertisers automatically assume that DVR owners will fast-forward through their expensive commercials).

With the proper measuring system in place, viewers who watch the ads will be accounted for, while those who skip them won’t. Sounds fair to me, but go read the whole article… recommended.

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The Advertiser’s Dilemma

The typical life of an internet video goes somewhat like this: someone uploads the video to a video sharing website (YouTube, Google Video, Metacafe, Dailymotion, your pick) and sends links to his friends telling them to watch the video. One of them thinks it’s funny and passes it around. Some other guy finds it on the website, writes a comment and shares it with his contact list. If the video is really funny, sometimes (not always) it will explode and become an internet hit (like the Star Wars kid or Pinky the Cat). Millions will watch it and pass it around. And eventually it’ll become old and die a natural death (sometimes to be resurrected further down the line).

As an advertiser, you’d want to identify these runaway hits before they become a success (thus minimizing the number of eyeballs lost to your message). As a content producer, you want to convince advertisers to buy space on your video, before you lose the advertising value of all those eyeballs.

So, how do you maximize your return on advertising on web videos?

Traditionally, we could say advertisers have it easy (though I’m aware how hard ad buying really is). Television networks have been around for a long time, have time tested products, experienced programmers deciding what gets on the air and when, and a captive audience. They also have a company (AGB Nielsen) that measures all these shows down to the minute, reporting on the age, sex, location and income level of the viewers.

The internet, however, presents a whole new set of unknowns. Most content delivery websites have no control over their content producers nor do they know who these producers are. There’s no experienced programmer deciding what gets showcased (CurrentTV does, but they have a different business model and approach to web video); instead, other users rate the videos according to their personal tastes (and with a little work this system can be gamed very easily). Finally, there’s no real measuring going on (I’ve written about this particular issue here, here and here). Most websites simply tell you which video has been viewed the most, or ranked the highest (again, with highly suspect numbers). And what they know about their users is usually limited to their email address, what they’ve published, viewed or ranked and maybe an IP address that can suggest where they connect from (which used properly can be a very useful variables).

As an advertiser, you’d want to optimize your purchases (as opposed to buying ads on every conceivable video and hope one of them becomes an internet sensation). But by the time you can tell a video is a runaway hit, you’ve not only probably lost the majority of your potential audience (sort of like entering a pyramid scheme at the bottom), but you’ll also have to pay a premium to advertise on that now world famous video.

We need tools that can track the spread velocity of a video, their viralness, so to speak. We also need to define new demographic variables, based not only on age / sex / location / income but more importantly on interests and social connectivity. When you have 14-yr olds playing online games against 30-yr olds, age and sex are no longer as relevant as what interests these people share.

Of course you can simply blanket every uploaded video with your advertising, but would you rather be that ad on every lousy home video, or that cool ad on the hilariously popular video-du-jour?

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Rethinking Ratings

Summary: An analysis of current television ratings methods, why they’re inappropriate for the timeless internet and digital video recorder era, and suggestions for improving them.

Traditional television ratings reports let TV executives and analysts study the behavior of a particular show or series, displaying the number of viewers each show had, broken down by demographic targets. This allows the television industry to determine which show won a particular time slot (e.g., Friday 9pm to 10pm), how it performed among a particular demographic (e.g., Males 18-34yrs) and how it has evolved (in the case of serials) over time (e.g., Are there more or less people watching it).

But what happens when viewers can watch any show at any time? When viewers don’t have to choose one show over another on a rival network? What happens when you can’t tell for sure who your viewers are?

The internet and TiVos give the viewer unprecedented freedom over when, where and what to watch. Soon it won’t be possible to tell for sure how many people are watching any given show, using traditional ratings tools such as AGB/Nielsen‘s Peoplemeters. Programming executives won’t have to worry about what the rival networks are showing at the same time as their new hit show. And ratings analysts won’t be able to track a new series’ behavior by simply looking at how each episode did on its air date.

Two hit shows going head-to-head on rival networks? Not a problem: watch one and record the other for later viewing (or get it from the Net). Missed last week’s premiere episode? No problem there either: watch it online, download it off bit torrent or pay for it on iTunes. Some of this you can easily track, but some you can’t.

Analysts will need to track each episode over time and then track the series as a whole. A VERY SIMPLIFIED graphic might look something like this, with a running total for each episode over the time of the series:

VERY simple ratings graphic

Any viewer can watch any episode from its air date to the end of the series (and beyond). This allows viewers to catch-up after the series has started or to catch any episode they may have missed. Of course, the whole concept of missing an episode disappears in the TiVo/Internet model. But in addition to tracking how many times a particular episode was watched or downloaded, you should also be tracking what’s happening with the rest of the show’s internet presence. Are viewers reading the characters’ blogs? Are they discussing the show in the forums? Are they setting up fan websites? Linking to the Myspace profiles? Uploading mashups of show clips? Not only must you track the show’s behavior over time and over several distribution methods, but you must also track and measure the user experience surrounding the show.

And finally, how do you solve the demographic problem: if you don’t know who your viewers are, how do you target them? The answer is both simple and complex. I believe that traditional demographic targets are on the way out. Social networks and special interest groups are the new targets… and these are much easier to track via the Internet than the old ones. You may not be able to tell whether a particular viewer is male or female, young or old, wealthy or not, but you can tell what news s/he reads, what games s/he plays and which people s/he hangs out with (to a certain degree, of course). One minor detail… you can’t (or shouldn’t) add apples and oranges. Traditional television ratings data categorizes viewers by demographic targets such as age, sex, location and income (because someone takes the time to visit each household in the sample and verify this information). And whereas traditional ratings analysis has always relied on a sample set of data subjects, internet traffic and behavior analysis has always examined the whole dataset. Eventually it shouldn’t be too hard to homogenize both sets of data, either by linking traditional television viewers to their online behaviors, or simply by expanding their interviews to include enough data to categorize them.

Currently, Google and YouTube limit their video data to a traditional web-traffic analysis mindset: most viewed, most recent, most subscribed. Coming from an Internet world, they fail to see the need (or maybe even the possibility) of better, more detailed reports (Yes, it could also be that they keep these reports hidden from the outside world).

As for me, I’d love to know how the most watched videos on YouTube evolved over time. Have they peaked? Are they growing? Who watches them? How about a Google Finance like chart, linking views to blog/news mentions? Which video has been linked-to the most (this one is actually on YouTube)? Which videos have been dugg and how many diggs did they get? Actually… I’d just love to work there and get it done myself!

CBS Launches YouTube Channel

CBS, one of the US leading television networks, has launched a YouTube channel. So far the content is limited to short clips from late night television, sports highlights, program promos and news items.

CBS Launches YouTube ChannelI’m not particularly impressed with the available content (no full length shows yet) but I really like the fact that CBS has taken this initiative. Late-night clips were already showing up on YouTube, so why not offer them straight from the source?

As of this writing, CBS’s YouTube channel has about one thousand subscribers and 33,000 views. As more -and better- content from traditional networks goes online, it’ll be interesting to see how they compare with user generated content. Will they reach the 37 million views attributed to smosh or surpass lonelygirl15‘s fifty thousand subscribers?

It’s great to see the traditional networks embrace their fears and venture online. CBS already has content distribution deals with iTunes (Lost is sold on iTunes for US$1.99 per episode), but I’m guessing they’ll release their shows for free on YouTube under a Google advertising supported model.

Interesting times, indeed.

Why Google Should Buy YouTube

Google and  YouTube LogosThere’s been a lot of speculation lately about a possible Google buyout of Internet video website YouTube for US$1.6B. A lot has been said about the potential value (or lack thereof) of YouTube and its future success (or demise).

But why, exactly, would Google drop one-and-a-half billion dollars on YouTube? After all, Google already operates a similar service, Google Video, complete with money-making functions such as advertising and pay-per-view/download.

What value can YouTube bring to Google?

The first obvious answer is market share. According to some estimates, YouTube serves up 60% of the online video market… more than 100 million videos per day. But you’d think with $1.6B Google can boost their own market share (estimated at 10%).

Content would be the other possible answer, but I don’t think YouTube’s collection of user generated content is worth that much, even if you manage to place advertising on them.

Some people have gone as far as suggesting Google simply needs to invest some of their war chest money and somehow came upon YouTube as an acquisition target. If that’s the case, then let me suggest Google should buy lottery tickets instead.

The rest of the theories revolve around Google buying a YouTube to eliminate competition. While a valid point, Google hasn’t normally resorted to gobbling up competitors, usually preferring to buy companies offering services that complement rather than compete with Google.

So, what does Google see in YouTube?

I like to think Google is a smart company with big plans, so I analyze them with this in mind. Think Big. Think Smart.

Google wants to dominate online video distribution and with it, online video ratings. Without ratings you can’t really sell highly-profitable advertising. And without a majority of distribution market share, you can’t really accurately measure ratings.

Google is allegedly interested in competing with Nielsen in the ratings market and in collaborating with Apple on their upcoming iTV product. I’ve written previously about Google’s potential as a Universal Personal Video Recorder (Tivo on steroids). And just recently Google held a think tank with the top US media executives (YouTube was also present). Something’s definitely cooking.

YouTube offers a quick ticket to this online media distribution empire, because YouTube has the market share but, more importantly, the data.

YouTube has over a year of extensive viewership data, detailing how / where / when and what people like to watch. Make no mistake, this is VERY valuable data. In a country with an estimated 110 million television households, YouTube’s 100 million videos served daily provide a treasure trove of data, ready to be mined, analyzed and monetized.

Buying YouTube would give Google a majority share of the Internet video market, along with the important rating’s data to monetize these videos via Google Ads.

More importantly, owning a majority share of the video market would allow Google to collect and commercialize CREDIBLE ratings data, which it could then share with the major networks and content owners, distribute their videos online, and get a cut of the ad revenue.

The Copyright Issue

A favorite argument of late is that as soon as a big player buys YouTube, said player would be sued into oblivion by copyright holders. While that may hold a grain of truth, YouTube has actively policed the website for copyright violators when alerted by the rightful copyright owner. YouTube has also signed agreements with major players, such as the one recently signed by my good friend Alex Zubillaga of Warner Music, for content distribution and revenue sharing via YouTube.

I believe Google has even better relations with these major players and with credible and comprehensive ratings data to share could easily sign distribution and revenue sharing agreements with them.

The Big Picture

All of this won’t certainly come together over night. Too many loose ends need to be tied, agreements need to be made and signed, and technology needs to be put in place. But I can certainly see a road map outlining the steps ahead for Google.

1. The first stage involves the acquisition of YouTube and its integration into Google Video. Agreements with the major networks and content producers will allow the distribution of videos via Google. Most of these players already distribute their videos online for free, so a bigger potential audience combined with ratings data would certainly be appetizing.

2. Stage two would involve integration with services such as Apple’s iTV, allowing viewers to play downloaded content (along with ads) on their televisions. Google could combine viewing history with search history to further finetune the ads displayed.

3. Stage three would allow viewers to record programs on Google’s servers and watch them at a later time. Additionally Google would have the capacity to allow revenue sharing agreements with local network affiliates, according to the viewer’s geographical location.

Of course all this depends on whether Google is indeed interested in taking a shortcut by buying YouTube. And if YouTube is not yet aware of these ramifications, if I were them, I’d certainly start raising the price.

Comments are always welcome. I’d love to discuss these ideas.

UPDATE: Shortly after writing this article, Google did indeed proceed with the purchase of YouTube for US$1.65 Billion in stock… which I actually think is a bargain. Stay tuned for a post-buyout article.

Case Study: NBC’s Heroes

HeroesAfter a summer-long teaser campaign, NBC‘s “Heroes” opened to great ratings and wonderful reviews. I haven’t been this excited for a new series since 24 and Lost first showed up.

According to this recent LA Times article, the networks are spending increasingly higher amounts to produce their new series. High-definition video is more expensive to produce. Marketing campaigns are no longer restricted to their own networks. And successful shows demand much more than just a TV image.

Heroes

Heroes is a tale of “ordinary people with extraordinary abilities.” Sort of like “X-Men” before they got together under one roof. There’s the cheerleader who can’t get hurt. The single-mom whose reflection in the mirror has a mind of its own. The cop who can hear your thoughts. The Japanese salesman who can bend the space-time continuum…

Heroes offers a great many opportunities for Digital Media Integration. Is NBC taking advantage of them?

What Heroes is doing right

Heroes has a magnificent story where, like in Lost, all the characters are somehow connected. The producers have also tried building an off-screen story to accompany the broadcast. It’s in this area of media integration that shows like Heroes can really make a difference. These are some of the things NBC got right:

Heroes Hiro* Hiro Nakamura (space-time dude) has a blog.

* Claire Bennet (unbreakable cheerleader) has a MySpace profile, as do some of her on-screen friends. (Very interesting, given that MySpace is owned by one of NBC’s rivals).

* If you missed the live episode, you can download it or watch it on NBC’s website. They also have a two-minute replay available.

* Message Boards let you get together with other viewers and some of the show’s producers and explore your wildest conspiracy theories.

* Heroes Comic BookOnline Comics delve deeper into the storyline.

So NBC is actively expanding the show into the internet, which is great. But they still have a way to go…

What Heroes is doing wrong

Considering the effort NBC has put into this show, it’s sad to see them not taking full advantage of the available opportunities. These are some of the things they either got wrong or didn’t get at all:

* Hiro’s blog is hosted at nbc.com, under a huge NBC logo and navigation banner.Hiro's Blog on NBC

* Hiro’s blog shows a note indicating it’s been translated by Yamagato Software. A Google search for this company comes up empty. A mock website for this company, perhaps with some hidden clues, would’ve been great. (Interestingly enough, there’s a Yamagata company that does translations).

* There’s no online presence for Isaac Méndez, the artist. An online gallery or even a Flickr account should me available with some of his paintings.

* No online mention of Peter Petrelli’s brother political campaign.

Coming Soon?* Incomplete website. Even though we’re past the second episode of Heroes (and the lengthy ad campaign), some areas of the official website are still not ready. Try clicking on the Games or Downloads links and you get a “Coming Soon!” message. And if you cheat and enter the urls yourself, you get half-finished placeholder pages.

Is it too late?

NBC still has time to fix these problems. The show is young and the audience large. And there’s always the remote possibility that these materials are out there, but still haven’t been discovered or made it to the top of the search results… And user generated content (maps, theories, connections, etc.) will eventually surface.

But this has all been done before, and it’s been done right (see Lost and The Blair Witch Project), so what, exactly, are we waiting for?

Google Media

Google Media
How Google will change the way you experience music, television and media in general.

Google, Google, everywhere

It seems you can find Google just about anywhere these days. Internet search? Check. Satellite mapping? Check. Photos? Check. Online shopping? Check and check. Advertising? Check. Web analytics? Check. Finance? Check. Video? Check. Music and television? Err, not yet, but the battle plans have been drawn.

Google has been quietly getting ready to bring the power of its brand and technology to the way you experience music, television and media in general. A simple search through Google’s job boards will display several openings for programmers, technicians and project managers for their video-on-demand, set-top box and media integration projects.

From the web to your television

Google has the equipment and expertise necessary to set up a massive media distribution and tracking network, integrated into their existing search and advertising technologies.

With the release of Google Finance, Google has unveiled a simple, information-rich interface that readily lends itself to other areas, such as music and television. Imagine having all of your favorite show’s news, postings, ratings, reviews and episode guides at your fingertips. Create your very own programming guide, including not only your favorite shows, movies and music but also, why not, your favorite ads. Quickly vote on your favorite shows, buy merchandise and share your opinion with other viewers. It’s all possible in Google’s universe.

I’ve made a simple mock-up of what Google’s TV dashboard could look like (click on the image to open the full-sized, commented drawing on Flickr):

Google TV (clip 150KB)

This dashboard would give the user access to the whole Google Media experience. News about the current show (via Google News), recording (via Google PVR – someday), user comments (via Google Groups), slideshows (via Picasa), scheduling (via Google Calendar), etc. Everything about your favorite shows at your fingertips.

Google is also making inroads into the set-top box business, hoping to bring television straight into your television (whether it’s in your living room or your mobile phone). With the right connections into your home, Google could use their massive disk arrays to create a huge, universal digital video recorder, giving you access to every show on television (or at least to those shows the local networks allow you to watch). There would be no need to be home in time for a show or to remember to schedule your video recorder… they’d all be online, waiting for the correct password or payment to send it your way.

Bringing it all together

There are still some areas where Google lacks the experience to properly pull this off, but they seem to be hard at work at filling most of these voids.

Searching within video and music files (allowing you to search for particular dialogue, images or sounds within audio and video files) and online transactions (allowing you to pay or get paid for buying or experiencing content) are some of the areas Google has been actively working on (though some argue that search within compressed media files is not possible). Others, such as ratings analysis (necessary for tracking a show’s popularity and establishing value) should readily evolve from Google’s vast experience with search result placement and web analytics.

If successful, Google will offer the viewer an integral, enjoyable and information-rich media experience. Hey, they may even get you to watch the commercials. Not bad for a newcomer.

UPDATE: This article was updated on September 28, 2006 to include the Google Dashboard graphics, which hadn’t been uploaded to the server when the original article was published.