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Week In Review: Apple’s Distribution Mystery, Nielsen Strikes A Deal With Comcast For OTT Measurement

1. Apple’s Distribution Mystery

Last week Apple announced that it had signed Oprah Winfrey up for its new TV project. In classic Apple fashion, the announcement did not offer much insight, leaving out important details like would Winfrey be hosting a show or merely producing one, but that’s par for the course for Apple.

Why It Matters

The Oprah announcement again raised the question—a question we seem to be the only ones bothered by—of how Apple plans to distribute all that programming they’ve got lined up.

Apple Music would be the obvious answer, given that it is being eaten alive by Spotify, particularly among Millennials. (Don’t believe those stories about how Apple Music is beating out Spotify. They’re only counting paid subscribers and (a) most Spotify subs are ad-supported and (b) Apple has no free ad-supported option. Yet another proof point in our theory of how bad journalists bend faulty stats to fit their story. And don’t get me started on the ones who use tweets to show what “people” are thinking about, well, about anything.)

But I digress.

Back to Apple Music, the problem there is that Apple has explicitly said they are not going to distribute their new TV originals via Apple Music. Or iTunes, for that matter.

One school of thought says they’re going to launch a proprietary app, similar to Netflix or Amazon. The problem, of course, is that even with the billion dollar spend, Apple won’t have enough original programming to launch a full-fledged TV app, and there isn’t really enough library programming out there for them to fill in the gaps. At least not TV programming—as both Verizon and Google learned to their dismay, most popular syndicated series have already been spoken for.

Apple could go the movie route, as movies rarely have any sort of exclusivity clause and so can be shown on multiple platforms (hence the birth and relative success of Roku TV.)

But that doesn’t seem to be the case either.

A recent Wall Street Journal article indicated that Apple was building an app that would combine their programming with iCloud storage and “other services” like magazine subscriptions.

iCloud storage and magazine subscriptions. Two things I’m dying to have, said nobody ever.

So there’s that, and there’s the other theory, as reported by Bloomberg, that Apple is looking to create an Amazon Channels-like gathering of apps, so that you’ll use Apple’s TV app to subscribe to HBO Now, DirecTV Now, Cheddar and CBS All Access and they’ll all wind up neatly knit together in a lovely Apple-designed interface that lives on iDevices and Apple TV.

Which brings us back to “I’d happily spend $150 more per device to buy an Apple TV instead of a Roku just so I can watch programs from Oprah and Reece Witherspoon” said almost no one ever.

So there’s that.

The bigger mystery of course, is why Apple just won’t say what they’re doing. I mean, besides their irrational propensity towards secrecy.

Because you have to figure that people as smart as Winfrey and Spielberg would not have signed on without first knowing how their work is going to be distributed, which means that Apple must already have a fairly well developed plan.

Curiouser and curiouser, as Mr. Lewis wrote.

What You Need To Do About It

Not much to do here for anyone other than sit back and wait. I mean you could do some serious digging to find out what they’re thinking, but that’s likely to be as successful as getting your hands on an advance copy of the iPhone. Best to just grab the popcorn with the rest of us.

And since Roku is also allegedly doing the Amazon Channels bundling thing too, if the Apple bundling thing proves to be true, just remember the many times we talked about the need for an overriding interface for App World and how unbundling was a bad idea because too much choice does nothing but confuse people. (Yeah, we’re needy.)


2. Nielsen Strikes A Deal With Comcast For OTT Measurement

Maybe the third time will be a charm. Nielsen has been steadfastly working on figuring out OTT measurement for a while now, partnering with Adobe on something alternately called “Total Audience Measurement” and then “Total Content Measurement.” Regardless of the moniker, it never quite took off the way they’d planned, and NBCU was widely regarded as the major stumbling block.

Perhaps thinking that if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, Nielsen announced that it was joining forces with Freewheel to provide VOD and OTT measurement, Freewheel being a euphemism for “Comcast and NBCU.”

Details were fairly nonexistent, with a promise to explain it all in time for the upfronts.

The 2019 upfronts, that is.

Why It Matters

The lack of a universally accepted standard of measurement has been holding back advertiser investment in OTT across the board, from vMVPDs to OTT apps. The beauty of Nielsen’s current system is that while everybody gripes about it, everybody also relies on it, and that’s how the $75 billion television ad industry stays afloat. So porting that sort of stable measurement currency to OTT will be a big deal and very good for OTT.

Nielsen also plans to use Comcast—I mean Freewheel’s set top box data, something they’ve already been doing for local broadcasts. This should make Comcast very happy because they’ve been trying to make their set top box data happen forever as a form of measurement currency and this will help.

It will also help boost addressable TV advertising in general, as Nielsen will be able to provide ratings for those VOD addressable ads, the ones that NCC is busy working on.

So there’s that.

What there’s not is any mention of though, is ACR data, which supplements both set top box and Nielsen data as it measures what’s on the screen, regardless of where it came from. That is hopefully just a PR ploy (since they’re releasing details in dribs and drabs, they can release the ACR details in the fall) since ACR data will really round out the offering.

What You Need To Do About It

If you’re an advertiser, start thinking seriously about addressable and putting more money into ad-supported OTT via Roku, Hulu et al. (And remember—Roku does not sell Hulu. Hulu sells Hulu. Roku certainly sells a whole lot of other ad supported OTT channels. Just not Hulu.)

If you’re an OTT app owner, rejoice, your ship is about to come in, and make sure you’re prepared for it by getting the appropriate systems and staffing in place. If you want to compete with the big kids, you’ve got to be as buttoned up as the big kids.

And if you’re one of the thousands of people curious to learn more about ACR, we at TV[R]EV have a report for you and it’s absolutely free!