The TV world is engaged in a long-running effort to upgrade its measurement systems, which, traditionally, have involved viewers completing a questionnaire to indicate their weekly viewing habits.

If TVs could automatically log viewers’ behaviour and report it back to measurement agencies, wouldn’t that be easier?

It’s already happening. Automatic content recognition (ACR) happens when a TV device either listens for the audio fingerprints of certain shows or otherwise reports back from EPG-level data.

Jim Spaeth, a partner at TV research and consulting firm Sequent Partners, thinks this could one day become the dominant method.

“I think ACR in general offers a scalable solution that could be the measurement of television in the future,” Spaeth tells Beet.TV in this video interview.

“I’m particularly fond of ACR in mobile phones, because a mobile phone generally relates to an individual. Smart TVs don’t quite have that advantage, because they’re generally household-based, but their ability to connect directly does avoid a lot of the problems that we face in the world of data.”

Coming to prominence in the Shazam app that consumers use to identify songs by listening with their smartphones, ACR has made in-roads to TV. Several vendors now offer listening for shows’ fingerprints, whilst Vizio-owned Inscape lean on close OEM integration to glean real-time insights in to minute-by-minute viewing behavior.

ACR won’t solve all the industry’s problems. Spaeth also calls for more up-front transparency in to the real nature of data sets which advertisers can buy, including the source, age and modelling of cohorts.

And his company is also working on a project with the Association of National Advertisers to examine whether techniques can identify the culture of a viewer from available data. “How do you identify an Asian American? How do you identify Hispanics?,” he says. “We’re at the very beginning of this project, and we’re just exploring how this is being done by various data vendors.”

This video was produced at the Advanced Advertising Summit in New York. Please find more videos on this page from the Beet.TV series presented by 4C.