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ComScore to Improve Video Metrix with Mobile, Connected Devices

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Around the 17th of each month, I keep my eye open for the previous month's comScore video rankings. The company puts out a monthly press release showing the top ten video content sites, video advertising properties, and YouTube partner channels—a slice from comScore's Video Metrix service, which offers much richer data to subscribers.

This monthly update has become a bible for StreamingMedia.com and other video news sites, which race to post the winners and draw some conclusions. Facebook is up two spots, but was down three spots the month before—what does this mean? The top ten jockey for position, but don't change all that often.

Only after reporting these measurements for several months did it occur to me to question what they were measuring. Set-top boxes and mobile delivery are hot areas, so both must be counted, right?

No, they're not. As of this writing comScore's Video Metrix, the premier measurement tool for our industry, doesn't count mobile, console, set-top box, or connected TV views. I was surprised when I learned the truth. It feels like a throwback to the days when RealNetworks ruled online video. So why do we all rush to report these numbers? Because they're the only measures we have.

Looking for a little more information on comScore's measurement efforts, I spoke to Dan Piech, the comScore senior product manager leading its video measurement team.

"Our objective with that product is to measure everything that's happening in the digital world on an equal playing flied," Piech said. Having equal access to information makes a marketplace more efficient, he noted, adding that comScore's free monthly video rankings are "one one-hundred-thousandth of what we offer our clients." He wouldn't tell me what subscribers pay for the full Video Metrix, but said the price varies by the size of the company and other factors.

To be counted, a video view needs to last at least three seconds. After that, the person is counted as a unique viewer. ComScore measures how long they view the video and counts that view for the originating property.

"At the moment, our Video Metrix product measures PC-based consumption," Piech said. It's a problematic system and it has to change. Luckily, change is coming.

ComScore is in active development and is near to completing a solution that will measure all viewing platforms. It's something the company has been working on for years, Piech said. Because comScore values its reputation and knows that its measurements determine the flow of billions of dollars, it understands that it needs to get the product right at launch.

This is the Video Metrix team's number one focus, said Piech. The improved Video Metrix will measure hundreds of devices and include new devices as they hit the market.

"There are countless new devices that are coming online every day," Piech said, noting that Google Chromecast didn't exist a few months ago and is now a significant player. To improve its reporting, comScore is working with many device makers.

Look for the measurement improvements to come in phases, not all at once. When will those phases begin? Soon, Piech said, but with a tone that made me think it might be very soon indeed.

"We definitely recognize the need," Piech added. "Our clients have made that clear to us. It's pretty well known, the importance of us getting this done, and we're close."

When the new and expanded comScore video measurements begin, it will be a relief to many of us, and I can't wait to see how it shakes up the sedentary top ten lists. Now, I just need to find out why it takes comScore 17 days to put the monthly rankings out.

This column will appear in the upcoming January/February 2014 issue of Streaming Media magazine.

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