Wolk’s Week in Review: Google making gains in the OS wars, Co-viewing helps boost streaming reach

Wolk's Week In Review

1, Google Making Gains In The OS Wars

A new study from S&P revealed that the international OS wars are continuing to heat up as Google and its Android operating system gain even more market share, nipping (sort of) at global leader Samsung’s heels.

Meanwhile, back in the US of A, Roku continues to dominate by what S&P called a “wide margin” with its decision to roll out its own line of TVs seen as a smart move in terms of maintaining said margin.

A separate report from Circana (formerly NPD) also notes another very critical fact in terms of the US market: we’re due for a “refresh cycle.”

Meaning that while Americans replace TVs on average every 6.6 years, the average American smart TV is already 5.2 years old. 

So look for a lot of new TV buying in the US in the year to come and a lot of expansion and battling outside the US as Google and Amazon continue to fire up their war machines and the CE manufacturers prepare for their own counteroffensive. 

Because as we’ve noted here before, the TVOS wars are going to make the Streaming Wars look like a small skirmish.

Why it matters

Let’s start with Roku.

Talk to people in Europe and you sometimes have to remind them what Roku is and that they actually, you know, dominate the US in terms of OS adoption. Because while Roku is trying to establish a beachhead in Europe, their effort is more Gallipoli than Normandy.

That makes life difficult for media companies in general as they have to view the U.S. market very differently than the rest of the world in terms of apps, advertising and even promotion. 

Roku, OTOH, has been very smart about how they’re playing their hand. While many of us initially wondered about the wisdom of Roku rolling out their own line of TV sets (versus just continuing to license their OS), it now seems like a very smart move. 

As per the above stat about TV replacement, it stands to reason that many of the TCL, Hisense and similar TVs that came with the Roku OS, will be among the sets people are looking to replace. Especially given that those were low cost sets, so the barrier to replacement will be pretty low.

Since those users have spent the past six or seven years with the Roku OS, it stands to reason that many (if not most) of them are going to want to stick with the familiar and easy to use interface, and so an actual Roku-branded TV will be a logical update choice.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic, Google and Amazon are finally getting their groove on, Google in particular.

Having realized that no one wants their Chromecast dongle, and that casting from your phone is a major pain in the ass (you can’t open another app) they’re doubling down on their Google TV and on all those Android-based operating systems they can sell.

While there has not, to my knowledge, been any deep integration as of yet, it’s not hard to imagine them pulling what they’ve learned from their YouTube TV vMVPD into the mix, or, even more likely, from YouTube itself.

YouTube, if you remember, now has its own FAST service, with free ad-supported  linear and on-demand content. Not to mention a sizable library of movies available for rent or purchase.

So all the makings of an integrated operating system similar to what Samsung, VIZIO and LG have in the U.S., where their own FAST services form the backbone of their user interface. 

Integrate Google’s popular mail and chat apps into that interface too, and it could be an especially compelling device.

One that collects huge caches of data on users, though, which is likely to be seen as a serious liability by many potential customers, especially in Europe where they tend to care about that sort of thing more than Americans do.

This creates an opening for companies like Samsung and LG, who can offer something Google and Amazon still can’t: better television sets. 

As CE manufacturers with decades of experience, both companies have an array of products from high end to low(ish) end that are arguably better made with better picture quality and more advanced features.

So that’s their play, and then there’s one more combatant: companies like Foxxum that make their own OS and/or their own OS+motherboard combination for OEMs that need one.

Either way, they can support smaller local TV manufacturers who want to roll out a smart TV solution, one that’s lower priced than the CE giants but does not involve giving up massive amounts of data to Google and Amazon. Not to mention that these smaller OEMs often support local content providers, giving them the same prominence as the larger American streaming services.

What you need to do about it

If you are Roku, well done. But consider that your iPhone-like interface may not be what is called for at a time when people do almost all their viewing on streaming. 

Maybe the thing to do is to give your viewers options in terms of the type of layout you have on offer or your lead may not last forever, especially in the U.S.

As in why are you not making The Roku Channel the first thing you see when you launch Roku, the backbone of your user experience journey.

If you are Samsung and LG, you are up against an awakened Google and Amazon, both of who seem to realize the importance of the OS Wars. Play to your strengths—you make better TVs and you don’t collect all sorts of consumer data.

If you are an OEM in a smaller market, consider white label software for your OS needs rather than selling your soul to Google or Amazon.

If you are in the industry, keep an eye out for TVREV’s report on the TV OS Wars later this year.

2. Co-Viewing Helps Boost Streaming Reach

A new report from Tvision Insights and Tegna illustrates just how much co-viewing impacts viewership numbers on streaming.

The study, which was conducted using data from TVision’s proprietary software to measure persons-based viewing, showed that Premion was able to achieve a 19% boost over CTV norms based on a metric called VPVH (views per viewable household) which is defined as “the average number of viewers present in the home when the TV is on.”

The rub here is that Premion focuses on premium content, something that is still not a given on CTV. 

For now.

But with most of the big FAST aggregators making an aggressive push towards quality/premium programming, the expected growth of the ad-supported subscription market, and the push to contextual targeting, being able to measure persons-based viewing assumes much greater importance and needs to be incorporated into any relevant measurement data.

There are, of course, a number of reasons for that.

Why it matters

While it may seem as if most of the programming on the bigger FASTs these days is premium content, either library network series or Hollywood movies, there is still a decent sized chunk that is just a step above UGC.

This dates back to the early days of streaming when certain services were looking to make a statement with the number of apps they had available. The sad fact was that many of those apps were not professional quality.

Thus it has become very important for advertisers to understand not just how many households are watching, but also, how many people within each household.

That VPVH stat will also prove important too, as contextual advertising takes off and people-based targeted fades. While targeting a specific genre of programming is useful, knowing that certain genres or keywords will return higher VPVH numbers is too, as it will allow those programmers to charge higher CPMs to advertisers who are now getting greater reach.

What you need to do about it

If you are involved in measuring streaming advertising, having a solid source of person-based data is key. Household viewing data via ACR is much more reliable than old school panel-based data, but knowing who in the household was watching as well as how many people were watching, is key.

If you are an advertiser, insist on getting VPVH data, especially on a local level, as not all streaming content is created equal and you want to get the most out of your ad spend.

If you are in the industry and can come up with a less awkward term than “persons based measurement,” have at it. If it’s a good one, you will have the full weight of TVREV promoting it for you.

This summer at the StreamTV Show in Denver join us as TVREV presents “The Future of FASTs Workshop” on June 12, 2023. TVREV’s “FASTs Are The New Cable” reports helped define the state of FASTs today. In this session, brought to you by TVREV and the StreamTV team, we’re going to take things to the next level. Come participate as we talk to key thinkers and decision-makers in the field to explore where the FAST ecosystem is heading in the years to come with an eye towards the ways it will impact programming, advertising, the interface and local TV. View full StreamTV Show Agenda.

Alan Wolk is co-founder and lead analyst at the consulting firm TV[R]EV. He is the author of the best-selling industry primer, Over The Top: How The Internet Is (Slowly But Surely) Changing The Television Industry. Wolk frequently speaks about changes in the television industry, both at conferences and to anyone who’ll listen.

Wolk's Week in Review is an opinion column. It does not necessarily represent the opinions of Fierce Video.