Audience measurement made easy with automatic content recognition and advanced analytics

Communications Writer

Traditional television's epitaph has been written countless times, starting after the introduction of the Sony Betamax more than 40 years ago. Yet the disruption caused by TV-recording devices was merely a flesh wound compared to the changes that cord-cutting and the Internet have wrought on TV's formerly sacrosanct place at the center of family entertainment. But what if this woe came with a positive twist in the form of better audience measurement?

If you can't beat them, join them

According to Consumer Technology Association, nearly eight in 10 television viewers use a companion device while watching their favorite shows. However, research has shown that most of the content on viewers' second screens is not actually related to what's on the TV. Steve Koenig, director of industry analysis for the Consumer Electronics Association, explained to the source that content providers should embrace their audiences' use of second screens and work to extend their media experiences to these smaller screens. But how?

As live audiences for TV shows have declined and multi-screen viewing has become a fixture of the living room, the media and entertainment industry has been searching for a reliable way to measure and engage distracted audiences. The answer to this problem may be automatic content recognition (ACR) technology, which allows networks to measure a show's audience in real time and present viewers with second-screen content that's synced to the TV program. ACR is similar to the song-identification app Shazam, but for TV. Consumer Reports explained that because the value of audience measurement metrics is so high, many major TV manufacturers have already enabled their devices with ACR functionality.

Once enabled by the viewer, ACR uses a smartphone or TV application to analyze the audio fingerprinting or video watermarking in the television content and provide the viewer with related content, such as polls, coupons or additional information. With ACR, the content provider knows precisely how long viewers watched the program and whether they changed channels or skipped commercials. For television networks, the real promise of ACR is accurate audience measurement. Since ACR works with time-shifted content, networks could obtain more accurate estimates of a program's audience via all platforms.

Enhancing audience engagement

Once media providers start collecting this valuable data from ACR software, they can use advanced analytics to gain audience insights and boost engagements. Engadget explains that Vizio's ACR technology can pull up to 100 billion data points from its TVs every day, and proper analysis of this information can enhance the viewer experience in unprecedented ways. Real-time ACR data can be fed into analytics software, which can then send relevant content — advertising, show information, previews and more — to a viewer's second screen. Content providers that use these two technologies in tandem can achieve a degree of personalization that simply isn't possible with traditional television, so truly individualized advertising is conceivable. Other ACR possibilities include connecting second-screen viewers to like-minded people on social networks.

It seems like the only limit to a technology like ACR is a media and entertainment company's imagination. Concert promoters in the Netherlands used Civolution's ACR technology to allow 65,000 concertgoers to be part of the show by syncing their smartphone screens with the lights in the venue. With the help of ACR and analytics, sports teams could give fans a more immersive experience by allowing them to choose between several camera angles when watching or by enabling them to buy merchandise after the home team scores. The possibilities are truly endless.

Advanced technologies like ACR have significant potential in the media and entertainment industry, and they could once again make the television the epicenter of family entertainment, much like it's been for most of its history.

Create a customized viewing experience that tailors on-demand advertising for audiences and leverages a 360-view of the customer via IBM Behavior-based Audience Insight for Media and Entertainment.