Nielsen announced this morning that it will begin giving video clients credit in its Digital Content Ratings service for views generated on Facebook and YouTube. Hulu will also start giving certain content partners credit for current series available on its streaming service.
The move is significant because it means an independent third party measurement service will be providing audience metrics that can be used when aggregating total viewing across platforms. It’s particularly noteworthy because video providers are leveraging the “distributed model” by pumping video through YouTube, Facebook and other social media platforms to massively expand their reach and drive their business models.
BuzzFeed’s Tasty is the textbook example of how a video provider can build its business around a distributed model. Tasty has racked up billions of views on Facebook in the 2 short years of its existence, in turn creating lots of new revenue opportunities and spin-off brands. Its success led the traditional food category leader Food Network to also embrace Facebook as a distributed partner. By June, 2017, Food Network had actually eclipsed Tasty in Facebook views.
The Tasty-Food Network story is just one part of a far larger trend of small and large, established and digital-only, long-form and short-form video providers embracing social platforms to drive viewership and incremental revenue. The trend is only going to accelerate, as Facebook aggressively pursues video, which will create significant new ways for video providers to get in front of users.
While the DCR credit is meaningful for video providers, the tension between focusing on building views through owned and operated properties vs. social platforms won’t abate any time soon. Distributed strategies give video providers access to gigantic audiences, but they also diminish providers’ control over their business and full transparency into viewers’ behavior.
For traditional TV networks in particular, which are eagerly launching their own OTT services in an attempt to get closer to the viewer and understand their consumption patterns, embracing distributed strategies reverts back to dependency on powerful third parties.
Regardless, any new insights into how content is performing is valuable, so Nielsen’s move to include Facebook, YouTube and Hulu is clearly a step in the right direction and no doubt will be welcomed throughout the industry.