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When It Comes to TV, Video Completion Does Not Equal Audience Attention

By Tristan Webster

Originally Published in Broadcasting & Cable 

When it comes to measuring user attention, it is important for marketers to remember that television experiences are fundamentally different from digital experiences.

Since the advent of digital data collection, many marketers have correlated Video Completion Rate (e.g., a video played from start to finish) with viewer attention, and built their performance strategy around Video Completion Rate (VCR) as a KPI metric. When it comes to television, however, TVision Insights wondered whether or not VCR truly is an accurate measure of attention.

Our research shows that, for television, video completion has little bearing on viewer attention. In fact, by optimizing for video completion metrics alone, you’re just as likely to reach an attentive viewer as if you did no optimization at all. Video completion rate does not help you to find an attentive audience.

Why the Difference Between Digital and Television Is So Important

First, some background: consider the distinct nature of digital versus television. At its heart, digital media is an active “lean forward” experience, while television consumption is a more passive, “lean back” one. With digital, the user taps or clicks to watch a video on a device typically in closer proximity than a television might be, and so completion rate can be a strong indicator of user attention. But once a television is turned on programs and commercials will air whether anyone is in the room or not.

While completion rate works as an attention indicator on digital, it fails for TV measurement because of the passive experience. There have been attempts to solve for this problem. Networks and brands use surveys and sales data to determine ad effectiveness. And in recent years, many marketers have used digital measurements as proxies for TV attention. Set-top box data is a more apples-to-apples comparison with digital VCR metrics. However, this approach is fundamentally flawed because set top boxes measure household tuning activity, while it is individual viewer attention that really matters.

Results of the TVision Study
TVision has built a panel with in-home technology that detects when people are in the room and measures when their eyes are on the television screen. We looked at eyes on-screen in comparison to program and/or ad completion rates, and then ran correlations to see if there was a relationship.

Based on this analysis, if programs or commercials air to completion, there is no correlation with the level of viewer attention paid to that program or commercial.

Additionally, a recent national partner study between TVision Insights and the Advertising Research Foundation (ARF) found that attentive exposures result in 18% greater unaided awareness than ratings alone, across a variety of industries. This attention-driven awareness evolves into sales. Attention, therefore, is a valuable metric for marketers to employ in sales-focused planning and buying strategies—not video completion.

Moving forward, understand that optimizing for video completion will not necessarily put your marketing resources to good use. Instead, optimize for attention.