Watchability has become the key ingredient for advertising in the streaming context – and will become increasingly important as digital and linear viewing continue to converge, says Foxtel Media boss Mark Frain. Initiative’s Paige Wheaton, Avenue C’s Daniel Cutrone and Atomic 212°’s Lorraine Woods agree.

The evolution that is bringing advertising to streaming services means we cannot afford to risk antagonising the very people who power our platforms. That’s not good for brands or for media companies. Unfortunately, poor ad practices on streaming services tied to old models is rendering some TV advertising unwatchable.

This should never be the case. Watchability is achievable if we combine world-class content with an improved viewing experience – and if we create an environment that fosters better advertising formats and opportunities. In the age of limitless content choice, we need to recognise that it’s the viewer who is ultimately in charge. Engagement and attention metrics continue to inform the industry on what drives greater impact and what doesn’t.

These days people don’t need to sit through content strewn with too many ads or low-quality, irrelevant ads – even if that content is free. The viewer experience is king – and those platforms that recognise this and meet people’s expectations will unlock not just sustainable growth but stronger opportunities for brands.

That’s why across the Foxtel Group’s fast growing streaming platforms we are optimising the advertising experience, mandating no ads during live play on Kayo Sports and setting the cap of four minutes of ads per hour, per user on BINGE. We believe watchability is essential, so we polled some of the leading minds in Australian advertising to gauge their views. Here’s what they told us:

Paige Wheaton, Chief Partnerships and Investment Officer, Initiative

For me, watchability is quite simple. Am I enjoying the show and the experience? Do I want to watch another episode? The beauty of how we decide that is intrinsically individual – what is watchable for me, might not be the case for someone else in my family, my friends, or my colleagues. We’ve never had such variety of content available to us as we do currently, and this speaks volumes to the fragmentation of viewership across the video ecosystem as we find what is watchable to us.

A topic that we talk to frequently within our industry is how we navigate a landscape where an audience’s attention is becoming more difficult to engage. Pre digitisation, we lacked robust data that helped us understand the correlation between attention, watchability and content. What we have now is several VOD platforms that track everything viewers do; will they binge an entire season of a show, finish that movie or hit a tipping point and switch off?

There’s a lack of tolerance for what people don’t find interesting. This is why watchability is so important, as storytelling and therefore content is a lean in, immersive experience that draws us into a moment and unconsciously encodes data to memory. And this connection is essential in helping us deliver effectiveness for our clients’ campaigns.

Something that has (until recently) been unique to the Australian market is how the experience of the Foxtel Group’s subscribers has always been prioritised when considering how we engage through advertising formats. This has meant lower ad loads, less intrusive yet still immersive ad units and importantly, holding back where the advertiser experience may be detrimental to the user.

Daniel Cutrone, Head of Media, Avenue C

Watchability is how likely a viewer is to continue to watch the content property. This is defined in many ways within our industry, the most obvious is total audience ratings – but more so we are looking at frequency, shareability, attention, and the memorability of each property.

With the plethora of shows available to us today, we are spoilt for choice. Outside of the FIFA Women’s World Cup, it’s next to impossible to identify programming that provides that mass appeal. Today we need to identify programming that appeals to our core audiences, drives attention and has the ability to tell our brand story within.

To further the concept of watchability in Australia, we need fewer, bigger, better. With so many choices for content available, I’d like to see bigger support on fewer top-tier properties that drive interest and attention across genres.

Foxtel has done a great job to deliver on watchability – having always run its own race, they have produced incredible TV properties that continue to pull attention even after its first run – for example Selling Houses Australia, Love It or List It Australia, Grand Designs Australia.

Lorraine Woods, Head of Trading, Atomic 212°

Watchability to Atomic means an opportunity to reach highly attentive, engaged audiences. Everything we do is measurable and part of our planning framework centres on attention. The stronger the watchability means, the greater the attention opportunity that exists for an advertiser to cement their brand within their audience’s minds, and the better the outcome of the campaign delivery.

Watchability is about quality and enjoyment. It has to invoke a particular interest or emotion and align with passion. There are the shows that stir up emotion and draw you in, you have a desperate need to keep watching what will happen next, and take in every piece of the action with 100 per cent engagement.

Audience fragmentation is creating challenges when it comes to measurement and attribution, and it’s not always about the highest reach that the best drives results. Attention, relevancy and engagement are equally as important. We need other metrics to evaluate outside of the age-old argument of reach. We need to have an industry acceptance and align a standard practice around measurement of attention, as a proxy for watchability.

Foxtel was the first to offer control to the viewer, with its “watch what you want, where you want, how you want and when you want” concept. Holding engagement leads to watchability and the diverse range of content that is available at your fingertips and the ease of use makes it a really good experience as a user and a solid opportunity for an advertiser. A recent study with Amplified Intelligence demonstrated the impact Foxtel’s watchable programs have on advertising attention and the importance of watchability for brands.

Foxtel Group is coming into owning the SVOD and AVOD space. They have pioneered the way before the global streamers. At Atomic, we’re looking forward to more insights around the SAVOD platforms and the most recent launch of BINGE, how brands measure this and the outcomes along with innovation and change.

Article originally published on Mi3.