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Dave the research grouch: another viewing data fluff piece

Inscape logoTime to call out another example of “publicity research” that seems to say something but proves very little. Today’s fickle finger gets pointed at Inscape, Vizio’s division that is trying to monetize their TV set data, and data released to Deadline and Broadcasting & Cable about 2017 viewing.

Just quickly looking at the data in the article, I suspected that any measure that had “Teen Mom 2” in the top five programs viewed via DVR, VOD, and OTT may be somewhat skewed. I decided to look deeper and see if there was any definition of the sample – who was measured, etc.

The short version is there is such a paucity of supporting information that it’s hard to tell anything about these reported data. The article has some of the usual phrases thrown around to impress those who don’t know any better about audience measurement – “second-by-second viewing,” “7.7 million households,” “can go granular and capture more precise information on viewing.” As the old saying goes, one can be very precise but not very accurate. Large samples and second-by-second measures don’t guarantee accurate, reliable measures – only a lot of data points.

What we can glean from the article is that these data represent sets in 7.7 million homes, or roughly six percent of all TV households. But we don’t know what proportion of sets these Vizio sets represent (out of the roughly 2.7 sets per TV home), which rooms these sets are in, or who is viewing them. Plus, we don’t know the profiles of those who have given opt-in permission to be tracked by Inscape – how different are they from Vizio owners overall, or the general population? This all informs the value of the information.

With their ACR measurement, Vizio/Inscape claims to be able to measure broadcast, DVR, OTT, and VOD viewing on a set. Again, no explanation of how this is accomplished (eg, how is the ACR match attributed to a source) or what other limitations there may be in the measurement. Are there any gaps that would be helpful to know to assess the data?

I did go further afield to try to find further information via a press release or other material aside from what was published on Deadline or B&C – but there is no other information I could find at the Vizio or Inscape websites.

Free your data! (at least the basics)

Thus the bottom line is there is little supporting data or context, and regular readers know I don’t think too highly of data published without any context. Obviously a press release doesn’t have to be a dissertation but there should be some basic information available.

As a result, in my opinion these viewing data only really represent some measure of some viewing by some unknown population – not exactly the kind of information that can be used “as is” for meaningful extension of industry knowledge. Presumably Vizio/Inscape has more detailed and useful data they share with their clients and partners – and it would be nice to see some of these basics also shared when pursuing press attention.

David Tice is the principal of TiceVision LLC, a media research consultancy.
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