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30 August 2013 - 1:40pm | posted by | 5 comments

Rhys McLachlan: Thinkbox data is myopic and ignores the reality of online video

Rhys McLachlan: Thinkbox data is myopic and ignores the reality of online videoRhys McLachlan: Thinkbox data is myopic and ignores the reality of

New Thinkbox data on online viewing is disappointingly limited in its vision of the online video market. It’s not just about broadcasters says Rhys McLachlan.

I was encouraged to read in the recent Thinkbox H1 2013 summary of UK TV viewing that online video viewing for the broadcasters was up an impressive 25 per cent on the same period in 2012, and the broadcaster community ought to bask in its hard-earned success, driving growth that other media channels can only dream of achieving.

However, I was somewhat deflated to see that this growth had been largely underplayed in the headlines, which in the main were published as ‘online video viewing accounts for 1.5 per cent of total TV viewing’.

I’m disappointed that the press release very much reads as a backhanded compliment, acknowledging the growth of online video consumption, especially when presented against the backdrop of a c.1 per cent drop in live linear viewing.

Furthermore, I feel that its definition of online TV – ‘figures supplied by Broadcasters to Thinkbox’ – is myopic, as it willfully ignores the vast swathes of quality online video experiences that are being enjoyed right now by millions of people across a multitude of legitimate and respectable video publishers.

The best analogy I can come up with is that it’s like the World Series in Baseball where only teams from North America are allowed to participate. It’s a “global” competition that ignores the exceptionally talented leagues and teams from countries like Cuba, Korea and Japan.

Strangely, while the US has won the Baseball World Series almost every year (go Canada), its record at the Olympics, a truly global event, is far more patchy.

But I digress.

Let’s take some more accurate numbers for the size of the online video market. If you take total TV impacts, as measured by Barb, and add in the impressions for online video as monitored by comScore, what you get is a split that better reflects the balance between TV and on-demand viewing.

(and let’s be mindful that BARB data is sourced from 5,200 households and modelled out to represent national viewing behaviour, whereas comScore can empirically account for every individual online video view as an isolated and measurable incident)

I did this exercise when I first joined Videology two years ago and back then online video viewing was responsible for 6 per cent of total video impressions.

I’ve just repeated the exercise for July 2013 and the number I got was 12 per cent of total video impressions.

Of course, you can pick selected audiences that watch less such as ‘Adults 65+’ but you can also find demographics like ‘Men 16 – 24’ who watch significantly more of their video via online.

You could perhaps also argue that within that 12 per cent the issue of ‘quality’ may be subject to some scrutiny, but I would like to clarify that we have excluded user-generated content from our analysis of online video viewing.

So we are talking about a market that’s doubled its share of eyeballs in 30 months. It’s impressive growth by any standard and these numbers don’t include the impact of BBC iPlayer (which recently revealed it had had 242m programme requests – including 77m radio requests – in July, an increase of 38 per cent year on year).

Perhaps it’s time for Thinkbox to reconsider the invites for their ‘World Series’; we’d be happy to participate.

Rhys McLachlan is commercial director UK at Videology


30 Aug 2013 - 16:56
jessd64096's picture

Dear Rhys, this isn't like you at all. The release is neither myopic nor misleading. It's about watching TV, whatever the device, and doesn't pretend to measure every form of video, from UGC, auto play MPUs, escalator panels to Netflix. All TV is video but not all video is TV.

And as someone who has worked with BARB for much of his career you know very well how robust BARB is, the best TV measurement in the world in fact. BARB will soon measure all TV viewed in the home within 28 days of broadcast whatever the device, but that means it will still undercount TV, because approx 6% is viewed out of the home and a certain amount of VOD is viewed after 28 days.

Most TV is viewed on a shared screen so measuring devices rather than people - the Comscore and general internet approach - is simply inadequate on its own. Panel data is essential, as Comscore know with UKOM.

We are delighted to see the online video market growing fast. We want to work with them (you) to bring more investment into the a/v sector. But I know you would not wish to commoditise quality content by pretending that all views are equal. Not just the quality of the content but the quality of the contexts are very different.

Let's discuss this calmly with a long, cool drink in our hands.



Executive Chair Thinkbox

2 Sep 2013 - 22:10
uk_andrewmoore's picture

Rhys, you raise some very valid points and it's a shame that the response from ThinkBox comes across so condescending.

These debates often fall into the "what is TV" and I believe that definition changes depending on the age group you ask.

I too would like to see ThinkBox take a leadership approach in embracing online video and delivering true insight to a/v buyers.

For that to happen, there needs to be a better dialogue and less defensive posturing.

4 Sep 2013 - 12:36
tessa19822's picture

@uk_andrewmoore Well, Andrew, if you read my response fully you'll see that dialogue is exactly what I was proposing. And if you think that responding with facts to what were very critical remarks from Rhys is either 'condescending' or 'defensive posturing' then I fear you start from a position of antagonism towards broadcast TV. If unreasonably attacked, defence is surely an fair response.

It is not Thinkbox's responsibility or remit to decide what BARB measures or defines as TV. BARB is a joint industry body with representation from the IPA and ISBA and the research is carried out by impartial third parties. The numbers we aggregated from broadcasters for their VOD viewed on non-TV set devices is a number that will soon be supplied by BARB itself.

Thinkbox strives to give helpful insight to all marketers and we advocate integration and effectiveness at all times. But we do not represent the non-broadcast online video market, and nor I suspect would those companies wish us to. Maybe one day companies like Netflix and YouTube will choose to join BARB, to be measured impartially by them, and pay the appropriate fees for that privilege. Then we will enter a new phase. Until then we will continue to work alongside the online video market, and indeed all other media that are complementary to TV, to give advertisers the best advice we can.

4 Sep 2013 - 08:14
SimonDaglish's picture

Rhys I think you ignore the simple fact that content and context matter as much as the data. What Thinkbox is measuring is TV broadcast quality content, which is the most watched commented on and viewed of all AV content and is quite different from other content which exists on the 'web'. I know it suits your business to classify everything as one AV, but that is not what the consumer does.

4 Sep 2013 - 16:34
tessa19822's picture

Duplicate removed now.


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