In preparation for the impending season, PBS.org is re-airing Season 2 of this popular Masterpiece program throughout December, and offering the episodes -- one per week -- for online viewing as well. What a perfect Christmas gift, I think. Coming late to the Downton Abbey party, and only having been able to view Season 1 on Netflix this summer, I've been anxiously awaiting the chance to meet up with the Granthams and their servants once again.
Now, even in this day and age of everybody trying to reach customers on multiple channels, some might still question the wisdom of a broadcast network offering an online viewing option. As you might surmise, I have a bit of an analytics backstory to share on this.
It starts about five years ago, when Amy Sample arrived at PBS.org as its new director of web analytics. At the time, the organization was focused on delivering monthly reports on individual program sites -- one for Masterpiece, one for Frontline, another for Nova, and so on. Over time, and under her auspices, the group began analyzing the PBS.org site as a whole, "looking to understand how people are using all of the program sites together -- the PBS universe," Sample told me in a phone interview.
Then, in 2009, PBS.org launched its video portal, and realized the data it gleaned from its traditional web analytics alone wasn't enough. Sample went on to say:
As you might imagine, as a broadcast network, much of the building is focused on television -- they didn't really understand what the web is for and whether the web is really adding value -- the numbers are completely different. So we had to figure out how to actually show that the website adds value to the broadcast as well.What Sample wanted to be able to do was learn why people were coming to PBS.org, and find out whether or not they were able to accomplish what it is they wanted to do while there. Then, she needed to be able to connect what people did on the website with their offline behavior -- did they view an American Masters program schedule online, then flip on the TV to catch the next episode, for example? In other words, was PBS.org's digital strategy paying off?
The answer, learned from use of Foresee Satisfaction Analytics, is, "Yes."
PBS.org expected people to head online to view TV schedules, and search its 10 or so years of program archives. And while some of this holds true, Sample said, the Foresee customer experience analysis showed something surprising -- the "share volume of people coming to watch video." One third of the people coming to PBS.org did so with the primary goal of watching video, the Foresee analytics showed.
They also showed a "virtuous cycle," from online to TV and back again. People liked having the video online, which ultimately translates in a greater willingness to give to local stations, Sample noted. "Once we knew all this, we could really justify why we were doing the video portal, and why we were putting so much effort and resources into increasing the visibility of video on the site," Sample explained.
And so tonight, I'm snuggling up with my laptop, and maybe a comforting cup of cocoa. When Season 1 left off, England -- and so, too, the folks at Downton Abbey -- was headed into the war.
Do you like to watch TV programs online? Which ones?