Critics point finger at PwC’s Facebook report

31 July 2019 2 min. read
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A controversial report by Big Four consulting firm PwC’s CMO Advisory business, commissioned by Facebook Australia, has been pulled from internet circulation, after concerns surfaced regarding its methods of data collection.

“My Screen: Video Consumption in Australia” was originally written to provide insight into the video consumption habits of Australians. Critics, however, were quick to point out that the study used “non-standard metrics” to inflate numbers and portray Facebook positively compared to its competitors. In an interview with advertisting trade publication AdNews, industry research body ThinkTV stated that PwC’s numbers were “used to inflate, some to hide, and others to completely bury the real story about video consumption.”

"We are currently validating a very small subset of industry sourced data and the report will be reissued once resolved,” a PwC spokeswoman told the Australian Financial Review (AFR) in response to the criticism. “We stand by the methodology used in the analysis and the importance of this research.”

Critics point finger at PwC’s Facebook report

Before its removal, the report stated that Facebook and Instagram were top platforms for video consumption, with an equal reach potential of Free-to-Air TV – watched by 17.3 million Australians each week.

This data, critics allege, was collected unfairly, according to AFR, “including measuring TV over a week versus Facebook over a month, and not including use of free-to-air broadcast video on-demand (BVOD) watched via smart TVs,” with smart TVs being used for more than half of BVOD viewing.

"PwC’s report clearly states that BVOD viewers are more likely to be terrestrial free-to-air TV viewers,” the PwC spokeswoman said. “In PwC’s research, BVOD viewers include anyone who claimed to have watched BVOD services, regardless of device."

Ben Shepherd, a coauthor of the report, wrote a LinkedIn post in which he defended its findings. Shepherd, a former PwC director, worked at the firm at the time the report was compiled. He wrote that his team spent “the better part of five months” collecting and analyzing data.

“The reality here is there is a difference between data being incorrect or wrong, and some parties not liking what it says,” he wrote. “I stand by the report being accurate in the former and really hope that the latter isn’t what is driving the intense and aggressive take down of what I stand by as a very strong piece of work. If the industry wants robust and transparent debate, then it needs to hear all sides and not throttle the distribution of information that provides clarity.”