Media Perspective: Don't forget the new media subtleties in the hunt for viewers

ITV is banking on the bright "camp-ness" of ballroom dancing to help drive its new film download service.

The Australian classic Strictly Ballroom, along with The Shawshank Redemption and Educating Rita, are among the first films that will be available alongside ITV's existing online and broadband content. This shows ITV is throwing its weight behind It has said it believes the market will "open up" this year, as audiences start to watch online content on their TVs and not on their PCs.

And ITV is not alone. While internet protocol TV is still a relatively new technology, the major broadcasters are racing to out-do each other with online content services to attract bigger audiences and offer new channels to advertisers.

Despite the infancy of this market, the pressure is already growing for tangible data about how many people are watching TV online. While action is needed to establish a measurement system to drive growth in the market, such a system is not looking that promising. A few weeks ago, Carolyn Fairburn, ITV's director of group development and strategy, issued a warning that online viewing models were lagging behind TV ratings systems, and her declaration doesn't paint an encouraging picture for online ratings measurements moving forward.

It's not surprising that the online industry is struggling to come close to agreeing on a single planning tool for the medium, and, while the various industry bodies meet to discuss whose responsibility it is, the market continues to accelerate at a rapid pace. Now it's under pressure from Barb and the major broadcasters, including Sky, ITV, Channel 4, five and the BBC, which are all working with the ABCe to develop a common currency for this new technology. The jury is still out on what it should look like, but rushing out a model that looks and feels like TV could, in the words of one agency head, be "absolutely ludicrous" or, to put it more calmly, it might not be the best system in the long term.

The TV industry, led by Thinkbox, has been beating the drum about audience engagement and the new age of TV, which is largely being driven by the rise of online and broadband content. With that in mind, it hardly makes sense to develop a model that simplifies online viewing habits to mimic the current TV data. At a time when the traditional measures are being increasingly questioned, is a push away from buying online viewings or ratings to looking at audience engagements a more relevant way to measure this market?

The hurdles for web TV are numerous, and persuading advertisers to come on board is a challenge, but in the rush to make the medium "advertiser friendly", it is important the nuances of this new media are not lost in translation in favour of dumbing things down.

Ian Darby is away.