The Online TV Measurement Dilemma
One of the biggest challenges for today’s brand marketers is understanding what their target audiences consume to know where to place their bets. The world of TV was created around viewers tastes so that networks can create programming that would sell advertising space.
But then the internet came along, a sea of ‘free stuff’ where content lost value in the eyes of customers and where entertainment and media companies have to work extra-hard to make people pay a premium for shows, music or content that can be easily stream or downloaded for free.
A few companies such as Netflix, Hulu or Amazon are heavily investing in content and offering exciting packages that slowly but surely are being adopted by millions of households where the living room’s king is the internet rather than a fixed TV schedule.
As these internet companies experienced growth, it could be argued that at times they haven’t been generous in providing consumer insights to their stakeholders – making it really hard for content creators to assess their product’s worth.
What could I do about it?
While SimilarWeb doesn’t measure viewership of online videos, the Popular Pages feature which is available to enterprise clients, let us see which pages are get the most visits for any site. So I decided to try it with Hulu.com to see if I can get an idea of the shows that gauge more interest with Hulu users by analyzing the program pages that receive most visits.
I simply typed in hulu.com on SimilarWeb PRO and filtered the results to US only and January-April 2014 to narrow down the searched and focus the findings on the activity for their biggest market in this current year.
I then went to the Website Content tab on the left side of the screen and clicked on ‘Popular Pages’ which immediately shows me a list of over 2000 URLs with the percentage of on-site traffic that visits them. Simply by downloading that list to excel, I was able remove the URLs that are not connected to a specific show such as the homepage, and other menu pages and create a ranking of the most popular program pages.
The next step was to repeat this exercise for every month of 2014 – the world of TV is very seasonal and there are marketing launches every month so I thought it would be interesting to analyze the impact of the marketing campaigns in online viewership and also the longevity of popular shows beyond the promotional period.
What did I find?
TV networks often cancel shows prematurely. It happened to Arrested Development, Family Guy and many others. To my surprise, the so-called ‘niche’ show Community, was a big hit for Hulu. My colleague Steven from the research team is a big fan of the show and after discussing the findings with him we wondered… could Community become to Hulu what Arrested Development was for Netflix?
Netflix brought back Arrested Development when they realized the demand from their audience and although Hulu doesn’t have the same track record to purchase expensive TV shows – maybe this is their chance to jump on the content band wagon?
Sharing is caring
I shared this insights with the Wall Street Journal who published a piece on the discrepancy between TV ratings and audience behavior online which was suitably placed in the CMO blog – it’s no secret that many brand marketers are desperate for more data of this type that will help them make more informed decisions when partnering with a TV show, network or platform to promote their products. A similar study was done a few months ago for CNET, where I also used SimilarWeb’s data to show Netflix’s most watched shows.
Not surprisingly, in both instances Hulu and Netflix representatives declined to comment – after all, knowledge is power and it could be easier for them to negotiate rights with networks, producers and advertisers if they’re not fully aware about what their content is worth.
What happened next?
To my surprise, 5 days after the article about Community’s success on the WSJ, another article was published about Hulu being in talks with the makers of Community to potentially resurrect the popular show for their legion of online fans (the article has been shared on facebook more than 2700 times!)
In an industry obsessed with data, predictive analytics and knowledge about their competitors, this is a really interesting example of how SimilarWeb PRO can help brands easily understand audience behavior and even preempt your competitors, suppliers or clients before everyone else does.