Navigating the Complexity of Measuring Connected TV and OTT with Web Analytics Tools: A Privacy-Centric Perspective

Navigating the Complexity of Measuring Connected TV and OTT with Web Analytics Tools: A Privacy-Centric Perspective
Estimated Reading Time: 8 minutes

Connected TV (CTV) devices and Over-The-Top (OTT) platforms have experienced significant growth in recent years, becoming a preferred choice for consuming content on various devices. It is crucial to understand the difference between the terms, as industry publications sometimes use them interchangeably. According to the 2018 IAB Digital Video Glossary, Connected TV, is a “television set that is connected to the Internet via OTT devices, Blu-ray players and gaming consoles or has built-in Internet capabilities (i.e., a Smart Television) and is able to access a variety of long-form and short-form web-based content.” Over-The-Top device (OTT), is a “device that can connect to a TV (or functionality within the TV itself) to facilitate the delivery of Internet-based video content (i.e., streaming boxes, media streaming devices, Smart TV’s and gaming consoles).”

As the audience migrates to OTT platforms, advertisers and content providers seek valuable insights to understand user behavior and optimize their strategies. Web analytics tools like Google Analytics, PIWIK Pro, Adobe Analytics, and others have been traditionally widely used for the measurement of these platforms. However, leveraging these tools for CTV and OTT measurement comes with unique challenges, particularly regarding data privacy. This article provides an overview of these challenges, compares leading web analytics tools such as Google Analytics, Adobe Analytics, and PIWIK Pro, and suggests alternatives for privacy-centric measurement.

Main Challenges in Measuring CTV and OTT Platforms with Web Analytics Tools

Device Fragmentation: With the diversity of OTT devices like Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Android TV, Chromecast, and gaming consoles, data collection and standardization becomes challenging. Each device operates on different operating systems and browsers, leading to inconsistent data and incomplete tracking. It makes it difficult to develop a single measurement solution that works across devices.

Lack of Common User Identifiers and Privacy Concerns: OTT users often switch between different devices while consuming content, making it difficult to track their interactions across devices accurately. CTV and OTT devices use a variety of identifiers, such as device IDs, app instance IDs, and advertising IDs. User identification and cross-device tracking require advanced techniques that respect user privacy, which may not be fully supported by all web analytics tools. In addition to that, many users opting out of tracking make it more difficult for advertisers and publishers to measure the performance of their CTV and OTT campaigns.

Limited JavaScript Support: Traditional web analytics tools rely on JavaScript tracking, which is not consistently supported across all OTT devices. Many devices have strict security policies that limit the execution of external scripts, hindering accurate data capture.

Challenges with Specific Analytics Tools

Google Analytics: Google Analytics is a popular web analytics tool, but it has some limitations when it comes to CTV and OTT measurements. Even though it is possible to execute robust analytics collection across key supported platforms such as Android, iOS, JavaScript, web and mobile web apps, and with a few modifications, Apple TV and Kindle Fire or Fire TV (as an Android data stream), Google Analytics does not support all of the different CTV and OTT devices and lacks common identifiers. Heartbeat and quality of experience (QoE) tracking requires custom implementation. Granular video tracking may also increase the overall cost of the license as every heartbeat is treated as a billable event. Google’s data retention policies and data-sharing practices have faced scrutiny from privacy advocates. Google Analytics collects a vast amount of user data, raising concerns over data privacy and compliance with regulations like GDPR and CCPA. However, Google Tag Manager’s Consent Mode and server-side implementation options can help orchestrate a privacy-centric data collection.

Adobe Analytics: Adobe Analytics offers robust privacy controls and GDPR compliance features for data handling. It supports data deletion requests and provides options for data retention settings to respect user preferences. Compared to Google Analytics, it offers a bigger variety of features and connectors for CTV and OTT measurements, many provided out of the box. Specifically, Adobe Analytics has a Streaming Media add-on module available for purchase. The add-on enables heartbeat measurements with granularity as low as every 10 seconds for main content and every 1 second for ads. In Google Analytics, you will have to build heartbeat tracking yourself. However, Adobe Analytics is also very expensive, and it can be complex to set up and use, and may require ongoing hands-on support. Industry publications also mention that data silos can be a challenge with using Adobe Analytics, limiting usability of data for decision-making.

PIWIK Pro: PIWIK Pro offers on-premises data hosting and full control over data, mitigating concerns related to third-party data sharing. It provides anonymization features and user consent management tools to ensure compliance with privacy regulations. It also supports a wide range of identifiers, making tracking of users across devices a breeze. PIWIK Pro offers several video engagement reports out of the box. In contrast, in Google Analytics, you need to build them yourself. PIWIK Pro also supports all leading CTV and OTT platforms, though implementation of media analytics will still require custom engineering work. On average, PIWIK Pro can be more expensive than Google Analytics 360 and more complex to use. It also lacks market penetration and is behind Google Analytics and Adobe Analytics in popularity among North American companies.

Alternative Tools for Privacy-Centric CTV and OTT Measurement

Conviva: Conviva is a leading provider of CTV and OTT measurement solutions along with Nielsen and Comscore, which didn’t make our list simply because they are most likely already adopted by your organization due to their omnipresence and popularity. Conviva offers user engagement and operational video analytics in real-time. In addition, it offers robust privacy features, from data anonymization before any of the data is processed and stored, opt-out controls, to compliance with all applicable privacy regulations, including the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA).

Snowplow Analytics: Snowplow Analytics is an open-source solution, a behavioral data platform, that allows businesses to collect and own their data, enhancing data privacy and control. It has always championed a compliance-first approach and lists PII pseudonymization and cookieless or anonymous tracking as one of its features. It supports cross-device tracking and flexible event tracking, enabling accurate measurements across diverse OTT platforms.

Tealium AudienceStream: Tealium AudienceStream is a customer data platform (CDP) that focuses on data governance and user consent management through a built-in consent management platform (CMP), helping businesses adhere to privacy regulations. The CMP can be integrated with Tealium’s tag management system (TMS) to create a centralized view of user consent across all marketing and analytics technologies. It also offers data anonymization, data retention and deletion controls, and privacy-compliant data management practices. It supports real-time audience segmentation, enhancing targeted content delivery on CTV and OTT platforms.

Mixpanel: Mixpanel is a first-party analytics provider, which means businesses collect and control data collected with Mixpanel. Mixpanel’s EU Data Residency Program allows businesses to process, protect, and manage personal data in Europe. It offers user-level analytics without relying on personal identifiers, ensuring privacy is maintained while still providing valuable insights. It supports custom event tracking, enabling businesses to measure user interactions effectively.

Conclusion

As CTV and OTT platforms continue to shape the digital landscape, measuring user behavior becomes crucial for content providers and advertisers. However, challenges related to device fragmentation, limited JavaScript support, and cross-device user tracking demand privacy-centric approaches. While traditional web analytics tools like Google Analytics, PIWIK Pro, and Adobe Analytics offer valuable features, alternative tools like Conviva, Snowplow Analytics, Tealium AudienceStream, and Mixpanel provide privacy-focused solutions that align with evolving regulations and user expectations. By adopting such tools, businesses can navigate the complexities of measuring CTV and OTT platforms while respecting user privacy.

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Author

  • Anna Sinitsyna

    Anna Sinitsyna is the Manager of the News & Media Industry Team at InfoTrust, leveraging more than a decade of experience as a digital analytics expert across various sectors. She guides the industry team in addressing media clients’ unique challenges, particularly in understanding subscribers’ journeys across web, connected TV, and mobile apps. With early experience as an interpreter, Anna is fluent in Russian, English, and the language of analytics. Starting her career as an analyst, Anna has cultivated expertise in diverse marketing technologies from the ground up, progressing to deliver strategic solutions aligned with the objectives of large multinational clients. Fearless in the face of uncertainty and resource limitations, she thrives on challenges. Outside of work, Anna actively engages with the analytics community and enjoys networking with like-minded professionals. On her days off, she can often be found engaging her family in enriching activities, exploring museums, cultural events, parks, and the great outdoors to create lasting memories.

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Originally Published: November 7, 2023

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November 7, 2023

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