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How biometrics is transforming TV and video


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June 14, 2019 | 5 min read

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The TV and video industry has undergone a meteoric transformation recently. There are now endless opportunities for viewers to access a diverse array of content across multiple channels.


Find out how biometrics is transforming TV and video

The result is a chronic attention deficit. With so much noise, UK advertisers and broadcasters alike have to fight to be heard at all, let alone stand out or acquire a loyal following. Tapping into viewers’ emotional responses is more important than ever.

Emotions aren’t something we articulate easily. Asking viewers how they feel often results in rationalized responses. For advertisers and broadcasters alike to be certain they’re getting the truth about viewers’ emotional responses, direct access to viewers’ implicit emotional responses is key. But how?

Using biometrics to optimize viewer engagement

Biometrics has successfully been used to optimize broadcasting based on viewers’ emotional responses. Formula 1 (F1) has over 500 million fans worldwide. It has a TV cumulative audience of 1.8bn billion across the top 20 markets. However, post-race surveys about viewer engagement levels suggested viewers were post-rationalizing their responses to the content; F1 needed a new way of analyzing engagement.

Populus, together with partners MindProber and Populus Data Solutions, set out to completely bypass viewers’ post-rationalism with an innovative biometric solution. It was to be the first ever in-home biometric survey of one of the biggest events in live sports – the British Grand Prix.

Firstly, a sample of F1 fans were screened and recruited from the PopulusLive panel of around 150,000 people. They each received biometric sensors which clip onto palm of the hand. They also downloaded a companion app recording biometric responses wirelessly.

All that was required then was to simply sit back, and enjoy the live race. Respondents watched the content from opening to closing credits in the comfort of their own homes. All the while, the medical-grade biometric sensors measured second-by-second emotional arousal in response to the footage. Respondents completed a pre- and post-viewing survey, and rated the content in real-time using a thumbs up or thumbs down approach within the companion app, to deliver rich explicit reactions for comparison.

Behind the scenes, Populus automatically analyzed the data using state-of-the-art algorithms, generating emotional impact reports within an interactive dashboard. This gave F1 second-by-second tracking via a biometric traceline.

Putting emotions in motion

Biometric research reveals patterns, trends and associations relating to human behavior giving brands areas for optimization at a micro level. In F1’s case this translated as highlighting the peaks and dips of the broadcast, the most engaging camera angles, what type of commentary has a positive impact, and how and when to utilize audio. As a result of the research, the production team has been able to optimize broadcasting.

Commenting on the research, Pat Symonds, Chief Technical Officer at F1 says, “The research provided us with a far more detailed understanding than we could have imagined of how viewers engage with a race.

“For the first time ever, we can use this data within a true data science environment deploying techniques such as machine learning to inform us of the path to better fan satisfaction. The value of the research is clear, and we’re very keen to build a bank of knowledge about our fans’ engagement so that we can move the sport forward in the right way.”

The result was an emotional impact report with the impetus to inject long-form live viewing with feeling. The solution has proved such a success that it is being used to measure every F1 race in 2019. The approach makes sense. Sports brings people together. It makes us feel something. The response to viewing experiences, especially sports experiences, is emotional.

Emotions drive behavior, despite what we think. Appetite for good content is fierce. Viewer attention spans are short and getting shorter. What’s more, audiences are consuming media across multiple channels.

As media consumption increases, the brands that survive will be the ones that are able to forge stronger emotional connections.

Biometrics is a vital new tool for improving viewer engagement by optimizing broadcasting based on emotional response. The research will have an impact on any brands that rely on long-form or live content consumption that needs to speak to the heart.

Hamish Asser, director of brand and communications, Populus

Industry Insights Media Analytics

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