TV ACR – a brief history, state of play and where it’s going

woman watching tv

Beginnings of ACR

The advent of Automated Content Recognition technology (or ACR tech) has fundamentally changed the way in which brands are able to build an understanding of their customers’ TV viewing behaviours and preferences. Specifically, it’s revolutionized how TV viewing can be quantified – making the world’s most valuable advertising medium as data-driven as mobile has been for years now. But where did it all begin?

Shazam (known everywhere as a music identifier) began the shift when, in 2011, it began applying its own recognition software to the task of identifying TV content through audio signals. In 2012, DIRECTV formed a partnership with Viggle to provide interactive, second-screen viewing experiences via content identification. The ACR sea change was underway.

Smart TV ACR quantum leap – hitting the screens

It wasn’t until 2013, however, that things began to really get going for TV ACR – when Smart TV manufacturers began incorporating the technology in their machines. LG partnered with Cognitive Networks to advance its own ACR agenda. The latter was then bought by Vizio and later renamed Inscape. As Vizio’s share of the Smart TV market expanded, its ability to scale its own recognition software did too. And the technology was no longer reliant on audio signals either. ACR chips within the TVs gave the ability to recognize any content showing onscreen, leading to much greater identification accuracy.

What it means

Understanding what a TV is showing as it hits the screen is proving a fundamental game-changer for advertisers looking to understand what their customers are tuning into. Through IP address-mapping techniques it’s now possible to anonymously tie TVs to households and aggregate viewing data, making profiling TV viewing habits much easier. This has led to myriad new cross-platform opportunities. Advertisers can retarget mobile devices connected to households that have seen certain TV content for example. Increased accuracy of audience profiling and segmentation based on TV preferences also presents a hugely valuable option to brands.

Where the market is now

But who are the biggest players in the Smart TV ACR area? Over the past few years three manufacturers have raced ahead of the chasing pack. Samsung, Vizio and LG currently own approximately 80% of the Smart TV market between them, with this figure likely to grow. Certain companies have partnered with a variety of Smart TV manufacturers in order to be able to offer advertisers the opportunity to leverage the mountain of data that TVs are now producing. When choosing an ACR partner, however, savvy brands should look only to those partnered with the Big Three manufacturers in order to be able to tap into the kind of scale and accuracy now available.

What is the future of TV ACR?

Right now, the Big Three appear poised to continue (and expand on) their dominance of the Smart TV market. The market is itself growing rapidly and the yearly number of Smart TVs shipped has already eclipsed so-called ‘dumb’ TVs. This all means that opportunities stemming from TV viewing data will continue to explode, with the value of the TV ACR market poised to reach $5 billion by 2021. However, that data will almost certainly be concentrated among the three largest manufacturers, meaning the go-to guys for audience profiling or cross-platform opportunities will be companies working with these data providers. But the efficiencies possible through a vastly improved understanding of audiences, and how campaigns and content influence them, are turning this into an area of critical importance for brands who want to thrive, or even survive. And the change isn’t coming – it’s already here.

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Who’s glued to the Winter Olympics?

With the Winter Olympics in full swing, we decided to take a look at how people are tuning in across the US and which states are most engaged. On average, approximately 35% of US households have watched the games so far. On the whole it’s (unsurprisingly) been the chilly northern states that have found the games most engaging. Montana, North Dakota and Wisconsin have all tuned in at a rate of about 15% higher than the per capita nationwide average for example.

The southern states, however, haven’t shown a huge amount of interest with Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi in particular declaring a collective ‘Meh’. Arizona doesn’t seem bothered much either, with tune-in rates there over 21% less than the nationwide average.

Alaska has provided a bit of a an eyebrow-raiser, barely pushing above 1% higher than the mean. Hawaii, on the other hand, has found the games very gripping so far with tune-ins reaching almost 22% above typical rates. This could be down to several of factors including the closer timezone and large number of Korean-Americans in the state. Or maybe the sun-soaked folks in Honolulu are just fascinated with snow!

Check out the interactive map below for more details.

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When TV viewers were most engaged during this year’s ‘Big Game’

One of the highlights of the year, and Americana in general, the ‘Big Game’/’Sunday Before Valentine’s Day/’Superb Owl’ (kudos to Stephen Colbert on that last one) has been exciting TV viewers for decades. This year was no different and provided fans with an epic match and a new champion. But for anyone (see: advertisers) curious to know just what exactly viewers found most engaging, and what had them tuning in and out, we’ve put together a little chart giving you those insights. Click on the image below to have a look!

Super Bowl tune ins

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