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

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

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