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Week In Review: Facebook Goes Mid-Form; CBS Gloats By Releasing Total Content Ratings

1. Facebook Goes Mid-Form

Ever since Facebook announced that it would be launching its own TV app (as in lives on Roku and Apple TV and meant to be watched on an actual TV set) people have been wondering just what that would look like. We knew that Facebook had unleashed Ricky Van Veen, founder of College Humor (and husband of Girls’ Allison Williams) to buy some programming, it just wasn’t clear what he was looking to buy—short form, mid-form or House of Cards?

A bit of top-notch reporting by our friend Sahil Patel at Digiday revealed that Van Veen was mostly looking at mid-form, web series that ran about 10-15 minutes an episode (although longer and shorter series were not out of the question.) The production budgets would be on the high end for digital, but the low end for TV. While there were no news shows, the social network was said to be focusing on “scripted and unscripted shows across six broad genres: science (which includes nature and animal content), sports, pop culture, lifestyle, gaming and teens.”

Why It Matters

Facebook has the power to radically disrupt TV because they have the data that TV networks lack—Facebook knows everything about their 1.8 billion users, including the shows they watch and the shows their friends watch and the shows their friends watch on Instagram…. They’ve also got the ad network to back it up, whether it’s to drive tune-in or to provide advertisers with the deep insights they’re craving.

The fact that they are doing mid-form, mid-budget programming now doesn’t mean that this is where they’ll end up. It’s entirely possible Facebook is doing this is a learning exercise and will start bidding on big-budget shows once they’ve got an audience in place and have analyzed that audience. (In fact, that sort of play would make a lot more sense than going big to start.)

One thing we’ll be curious to see is what Facebook TV’s interface looks like. Will they give users the ability to time-shift and watch library content, or will they use the Might Algorithm to serve up video radio-style. (They might want to talk to our friends at Iris.TV if they are considering the latter.)

What You Need To Do About It

If you’re an advertiser, you should definitely talk to Facebook. The targeting and data opportunities are huge and while Facebook is social media, its audience spans all age and demographic groupings. Plus it’s a chance to be part of something fresh and look like a forward-thinking company.

If you’re a TV network, not much you can do other than watch and be glad that they don’t seem to be going head-to-head with you. At least not right now.

If you’re an MVPD, you might want to think about what it would mean to have Facebook TV as part of your offering. Right now, there doesn’t seem to be much of a downside.


2. CBS Gloats By Releasing Nielsen Total Content Ratings.

Nielsen’s Total Content Ratings are the final piece of their Total Audience Measurement (TAM) plan to actually start counting digital ratings (e.g., TV watched on a tablet, smartphone, streaming device like Roku, or desktop/laptop.)  TCR was due to go live March 1st, but NBC balked, claiming the system wasn’t ready yet and so Nielsen agreed to let the networks pick and choose which parts they wanted to release for now.

Many industry observers felt that NBC’s real motivation was to avoid having TCR reveal that their viewership numbers on digital were not all that, especially with the Upfronts looming just a few weeks away.

But CBS, who has been leading the ratings war this year, seized the opportunity and announced that they would be releasing their TCR data, confident that shows like The Big Bang Theory were reaching a sizable digital audience.

Why It Matters

Once Nielsen TAM is in place, TV Everywhere will finally take off. The networks, which had all placed major restrictions on TVE due to viewers not being counted in the ratings, will do away with those restrictions and viewers will be free to watch where and when they want, though we suspect almost all TVE viewing will be done at home. (Because why would you head to Starbucks to watch Game of Thrones?)

While CBS embracing TCR is a way of gloating about their stellar ratings, it’s also a way to make sure that TCR gets off to a good start and that other networks and advertisers begin to use it. Once that happens—mid-summer is our best guess—watch for TV Everywhere to really take off, followed quickly by recommendation-based program guides and increased time-shifting.

All of which should help consumers to start liking their pay-TV service a whole lot more.

What You Need To Do About It

If you’re an advertiser, make sure that your ads are all set for linear and digital and that you’re able to run the same ads on both.

If you’re a network, develop a TVE strategy, including ways to drive tune-in regardless of device.

And if you’re an MVPD, make sure your TVE app is ready and in place and that the UI and UX are stellar, along with the design. This is your big chance to impress your users. Don’t blow it.