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A cheat sheet in how to measure reach on one of the fastest-growing channels in all of media.

Connected television reach applies one of the oldest concepts in the history of the advertising industry (“reach”) with one of the newest, fastest-growing channels in all of media (“connected TV,” a subject we cover in depth here.)

The question is how to use an old-school advertising metric to measure a decidedly new consumption channel?

Don’t let the jargon concern you, though; connected TV reach is a relatively straightforward topic, at least by ad tech standards. Let’s break down the what, how and why of reach on connected television.

First off, what’s “reach”?

Reach is one of the most common metrics that advertisers use to execute and measure their work. It is the total number of people exposed to an ad from a particular advertising campaign. That’s it — it’s the absolute total number of people who saw that ad.

Oftentimes, you’ll see reach expressed in terms of “households” instead of people, which is a nod to the early days of TV advertising. Traditional linear television, meaning the broadcast and cable networks that people watch in real-time, is measured by households because while networks might know how many households tuned into a particular broadcast, they can’t necessarily distinguish who in that household was watching. Was it dad? Mom? Little sister? Poochie?

But that doesn’t matter much for our purposes here. We’re not talking about broadcast television, we’re talking about a new frontier: connected TV.

Ah yes… and what’s that?

Connected TV refers to TV watchers (or “consumers,” in marketing lingo) who consume their favorite shows by way of an internet-connected television, whether it’s a smart TV, a good old ethernet cord stuck in the back, or a device that allows viewers to stream video on their televisions, such an Apple TV, Chromecast or Roku device.

Some commentators refer to connected TV viewers as cord-cutters -- people who stream their video content instead of buying traditional cable memberships. It’s all the rage, according to The Trade Desk’s latest Future of TV report.

What’s this have to do with reach, though?

Those cord-cutters threw a wrench in the measurement system when they switched from linear television to Connected TV.

For decades, broadcast TV was, by far, the largest content medium in terms of both consumption and advertising dollars. Once viewers started cutting the cord, though, advertisers were unsure of how to adapt their TV campaigns, which were measured by household, for digital consumption.

In response, Connected TV reach recreates that old, linear television measurement model, but for connected TV.

How is connected TV reach different?

In many ways, it’s actually more precise than measuring reach on linear television. That’s because it’s nearly impossible for TV networks and measurement companies to tell exactly who watched their linear broadcasts — or to put it more accurately: who watched which commercials during those broadcasts. It will always be a representative sample extrapolated for the masses.

Digital, in all its forms, including connected TV, provides exact data on how many people streamed a show. That allows advertisers to measure the reach of their connected TV campaigns with greater accuracy. And that means advertisers can be more informed about where and how they spend their advertising budgets as they add Connected TV to their media mix, to complement their linear campaigns.

And perhaps most important, they can understand, with precision, how Connected TV can add incremental reach to linear TV advertising – finding those viewers who are viewing this new golden age of TV content in new digital ways.

Data-driven 101