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.
Challenges with Specific Analytics Tools
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.