The news used to be a premium value service. The public would have to wait on the evening paper editions or the next TV bulletin to get updates on a big story.

Now we have rolling broadcast coverage of events that has collapsed the value of news reporting. This is one of the industry changes that’s led to the rapid decline in regional papers and forced the big national titles to go international like the Daily Mail and Guardian.

The irony is that the 24 hour news channel themselves struggle to fill space. A lot of the time they deliver anodyne news commentary on events that are barely news.

When big stories do break, the networks are put under extreme pressure to get the story angle right or to run the story for the right length of time. Broadcasters are in a constant ratings war with the competition.

Two Irish born tech entrepreneurs, Eoin Dowling and Kevin Burkitt, have identified a gap in the market servicing broadcasters, ad-makers and TV producers. In 2011 they set up BoxFish in Palo Alto.

One of their core offerings is analytics software that parses the commentary in TV broadcasts in real time and extracts commercially valuable data from it.

Their technology’s applicability can lie in matching words in the broadcast with trending words on social media or reporting back to networks on how successful their broadcasts were in attracting audience numbers.


Eoin Dowling – CEO & Founder, BoxFish

Traditionally, marketing research methodologies like focus groups, surveys and questionnaires used by TV networks have been limited to segmenting audiences demographically which is a far from satisfactory way of getting to know your customers.

The value add for analytic software like BoxFish’s is that broadcasters can get to know their customers’ preferences as they change.

The Boxfish IQ analytics platform can be used to feed realtime results back to TV network producers. It can help track viewing peaks and variation in broadcast content, enabling clients to see what topics do well in the ratings.

This can give network executives hard evidence for planning future TV content rather than just going on hunches. The company’s technology can also be applied to benefit individual viewers: they can search across a vast number of TV channels for their favourite topics  or just be alerted when that topic comes up in a TV show. BoxFish is scaling globally, after a series of successful investment rounds it opened up a new R&D hub in Dublin.

The field of TV data analytics is advancing on other fronts too: as Michael Wolf points out in Forbes Magazine, this new technology can be applied to the intersection of TV and Social Media to give pretty accurate results about which audience likes which brands. This co-relation between consumer brand and TV shows means advertising can be better targeted and more efficient.

The real time response from viewers and potential consumers is highly valuable to TV advertising campaigns and TV show producers. It means high quality valid feedback is almost instantaneous, whereas previously the time delay in harvesting survey and focus group results was measured in weeks.

Producers and advertisers can now get the opportunity to “pivot” or improve their broadcast content, boosting rating figures in the process.

Just like entrepreneurs who practice lean enterprise, TV networks can get real time feedback from audiences on new broadcast content.

Venturebeat recently discussed how TV analytics can help the networks in other ways like managing their broadcast infrastructure when viewing traffic surges.

Constantly monitoring viewer behaviour means the networks can anticipate consumer demand surges. A virtualised infrastructure streaming from the cloud can then respond to any spike in demand, ideally offering a seamless service delivery.

Analysing what consumers are watching can be highly effective when combined with other data sources like supermarket loyalty cards. As InformationWeek reports,  if an advertiser can  find out what a household is watching and use their loyalty card data to find out what they’re buying, this can provide a very accurate measure of how effective TV advertising has been or enable advertisers to co-ordinate cross channel marketing campaigns. The necessary data, of course is collated without any privacy intrusion.

The Future of TV Advertising

Many people watch TV and use their Smartphones at the same time to access social media sites like Twitter. Tweeting and watching TV are now complimentary parts of the same activity like having a drink with a meal.

TV producers have anticipated this and are adding hashtags to programmes and TV ads. Last year during the US Superbowl 57% of coast-to-coast Superbowl adverts used hashtags. And more and more programmes and TV adverts being broadcast on local television both here in Ireland and the UK also have hashtags accompanying them.

Earlier this year Twitter commissioned research into this area with some interesting findings, as outlined in the Infographic. This can provide marketing teams with more real-time metrics on broadcast content and enable them to slice and dice that data in terms of location and other parameters.


Interestingly, MIT researcher Deb Roy did a TEDTalk back in March 2011. We listed it as one of our favourite TEDTalks. Roy wanted to understand how his infant son learned language – so he wired up his house with video cameras to catch every moment (with exceptions) of his son’s life, then parsed 90,000 hours of home video to watch “gaaaa” slowly turn into “water.” Astonishing, data-rich research with deep implications for how we learn. And if you watch the full piece to the very end, you will see Roy’s predictions on how this data can be used. We should probably add that Deb Roy just happens to be the Chief Media Scientist at Twitter.

And Twitter are one step further again: they’re integrating retail into the whole TV/Tweeting activity because viewers can now use a “buy now” button on Twitter to order advertised products. According to a report in Mashable they’re partnering with Stripe to deliver this new service, which is proof positive of how the Collison brothers, who we blogged about back in February, are progressing e-commerce.


This closer correlation between TV entertainment and brand identity could will change advertising on TV forever. From originally sponsoring TV programmes, brands could end-up getting cameo roles: there could be a new emphasis on product placement in popular TV programmes.  Brand narratives like the launch of a new product range could even be written into a show’s script. BoxFish have entered this market at a critical time and as we all know, the sun always shines on TV.