Role of Panels Undergoing Transformative Changes But Will Remain An Important Building Block For Audience Measurement Moving Forward – CIMM Study

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Analysis points to future role of panels in a complex multi-platform distribution environment

New York, May 8, 2024 – Despite dramatic changes across the TV market and measurement landscape, consumer research panels seem set to remain a critical building block for measurement solutions for the foreseeable future.

“The Future Role and Value of Panels in U.S. TV Measurement,” released today by the Coalition for Innovative Media Measurement (CIMM), analyzes the purpose and usage of consumer research panels in a changing industry, and provides an in-depth analysis of use cases, technologies employed, panel sizes and costs. The report is based on an extensive program of research and analysis, with contributions from a wide cross-section of TV industry stakeholders, including all of the major measurement providers.

Although datasets from set-top boxes, smart TVs and other sources have tremendous utility for measurement purposes, panels remain vital for calibrating and enriching this data, as well as supporting measurement of actual viewers rather than households.

“The TV industry is changing, and as it evolves, so too will the role of panels. For the foreseeable future, panels will remain a critical ingredient for many use cases,” said Jon Watts, Managing Director at CIMM. “As with any significant cycle of innovation, new measurement solutions come with advantages – and limitations. Our goal with this study is to help to build a consensus about the role and value of panels in measurement, the use cases that they support, and the minimal and optimal requirements for delivering against these use cases – independently and/or alongside big TV data inputs.”

The study found:

  • While panels are no longer viewed as the sole source of measurement, they remain a critical ingredient, solving for use cases that big data alone cannot easily solve for. Panel use cases include support for measurement of ad-supported TV/video, cross-media reach & frequency measurement, content measurement, personification, addressing non- or under-representation of different groups, correcting technographic skews/biases, acting as a source of truth and validation, supporting measurement of broadcast and local TV channels, and measuring attention and engagement.
  • Panels present an opportunity to establish more trust and credibility in alternative currency measurements and can help accelerate adoption of new measurement solutions. In fact, panel value might increase as new use cases arise, such as the need for high quality seed/input data, transparency, direct measurement, and validation increases in the face of black box outcomes using AI. Panel data can serve as seed data into AI models and as an important reality check for AI-based measurements.
  • Panel technologies continue to evolve with a focus on making panelist participation less burdensome, facilitating more complete collection and benefiting panelist retention by making it easier to participate. Advancements include passive persons identification such as portable metering devices and Bluetooth signals from mobile devices to TV sets; integration and detection of digital consumption for cross-device measurement; privacy enhancements through greater transparency into and management of data collected; and AI utilization for more efficient and accurate identification of content and advertising on devices.
  •  Panel development and maintenance is costly, running into the double-digit millions even for a panel of just 5,000 HHs. This cost can make it prohibitive for any single company to innovate, making the case for establishment of a common industry panel, as opposed to establishing many different panels. This approach would enable costs to be shared across a wider pool of stakeholders and make it possible to develop larger panels of higher quality than can be achieved through multiple panels.

“New digital technologies have enabled an explosion of video and advertising formats, but the need for accountability and measurement remains consistent – if not more critical than ever,” said Jonathan Steuer, CEO and Co-founder of Anonymous Media Research and co-author of the report.

“Marketers demand accurate, unbiased, comprehensive measurement to ensure that dollars invested are accountable to their brand goals, but today’s video environment is incredibly complex,” said Joan FitzGerald CEO Data ImpacX, co-author. “There are enormous amounts of data, but not all data is purpose-built for measurement. As the video advertising industry continues to push forward on measurement innovation and improvement, our study showcases how the role of panels is changing to support better measurement across a wider range of use cases.”

About CIMM

The Coalition for Innovative Media Measurement (CIMM) is a non-partisan, pan-industry coalition focused on cultivating improvements, best practices and innovations in measurement and currency, new metrics and approaches to understanding the value of media, and data collaboration and enablement. CIMM’s members include leading networks, studios, streamers and programmers, MVPDs, TV OEMs and OS providers, major digital businesses, agencies, measurement and data providers, trade bodies and consultants. CIMM is a subsidiary of the Advertising Research Foundation and adheres to the ARF’s principles of scientific rigor, objectivity and evidence-based research. 

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