The TV industry still hasn't completely figured out how to measure audiences in 2016, but that didn't stop Nielsen from using the Advertising Week stage to make predictions about what measurement will look like in 2025.
While technology and ad models will continue to evolve, reach and age and gender demographics will continue to be the core of audience measurement, Megan Clarken, president-product leadership, Nielsen, argued during an Advertising Week panel on Tuesday.
Age and gender will always matter because they have a "known universe" that allow for the calculation of the total market share, Ms. Clarken said.
But other industry executives that took the stage for the second half of the discussion were less certain about which metrics will be part of the currency in the next decade.
"It scares me to think that in 2025 we will still be transacting on age and sex demos," said Howard Shimmel, chief research officer, Turner, adding that those broad targets become secondary as data allows for greater granularity in audience buying.
Dave Levy, newly appointed exec VP-non-linear revenue, Fox Networks Group, suggested if there is one potential comparable metric it could be audience attention. "In order to deliver a message you need an active viewer," Mr. Levy said.
CBS Interactive President and Chief Operating Officer Marc DeBevoise said there is still a need to deliver large-scale audiences.
And then there are the results of advertising to these audiences. "The real metric is business outcomes," said Brad Smallwood, VP-measurement science, Facebook.
Ultimately, having one set currency may not be necessary. While right now age and sex demographics are what's used to negotiate TV buys, media agencies are leaning on a range of data and targets to plan media spend, and they aren't necessarily eager to reveal what exactly those data points are. If they do, it could mean an increase in how much TV networks charge to deliver those audiences, said Lyle Schwartz, managing partner, GroupM.
"If the industry can't agree on metrics, fine, we will do it ourselves," Mr. Schwartz said.
When it comes to viewership trends, Nielsen's Ms. Clarken said millennials will watch more live programming as they get older. And video games could be replaced by augmented reality.
While the amount of data at our disposal will continue to grow, Nielsen's Ms. Clarken said biases will need to be cleaned out of the data, which makes representative panels essential.
Ms. Clarken's biggest concern is ad blocking. "It's a cry for help from consumers who are sick and tired of targeting and re-targeting," Ms. Clarken said, calling for the industry to create standards for advertising.
Nielsen is trudging forward in its quest to provide the industry with comparable total audience ratings, with Ms. Clarken announcing that it will release its digital content ratings on Friday. That will allow audiences to be measured across desktop and mobile devices for all content, including video, audio and text.