A prof from Ball State University’s Center for Media Design has taken an interest in the dynamics of our space, fascinated by the increased amount of TV consumption outside of homes.

Now we all know digital signage is not TV, but for the purposes of looking at something, it’s a term people can get their heads around quickly.

“In late 2005, we found that almost 30% of participants consumed some sort of TV outside the home in the day they were observed — and 9.4% of all TV viewing was similarly out-of home (work-based, 4.1%; car, 0.5%; other, 4.8%). It’s a safe bet that as the amount of out-of home TV continues to increase, so will the time spent exposed to it, ” writes the author, Mike Bloxham, in MediaPost. ”In any event, the scale of the economic opportunity is not insignificant.

Already, we have a plethora of network providers, “platform” owners (retailers, mall owners, transit operators and hotel chains) and content of one sort or another — some familiar, some less so, and some specific to the location.

As the out-of-home video market continues to develop it will — in keeping with other sectors — do so on the back of robust measurement and the continued enhancement of our understanding of the consumption and impact of the content, and the related behaviors exhibited by the audiences reached. Right now we are seeing a significant amount of activity in this area.”

Bloxham notes there are all kinds of efforts to establish some measurement criteria and provide research on how people consume what he calls “shopper media.” But he says the space is far from universally accepted as a real medium and notes it ”is complex and perhaps more subject to behavioral and environmental influences than most others.”

He says in stores and other public places that have video advertising screens, those screens are rarely the sole focus of potential viewers. Good exceptions, he notes, are screens in elevators and waiting rooms — where there is little else to look at.

“I don’t have the answer to any of these questions, and I have no doubt that many of those selling inventory of various of these platforms have survey data in their sales kits. But I’m prepared to bet that a good deal of that data is based on self-report and it will be looked at with a good deal of skepticism on the part of the advertisers and agencies that are being asked to part with large amounts of money to stake their brand’s claim on various parts of the out-of-home video landscape.

After all, video encountered in environments that are visited for other purposes are very different from video consumed on a TV screen at home or on a computer when choice is involved. On most occasions in the out-of-home space, there is no choice or control over the content and the video will often not be the primary focus of attention (at least it won’t be for very long). This is where our needs come back to the behavioral rather than simply measurement of foot fall.

As the The Audit Bureau’s ”Eyes On” initiative recognizes, it isn’t about who passes the content, it’s about who looks at it and — hopefully — takes something away from it.

No doubt Out-of-home Video Advertising Bureau and others will be announcing their plans in the coming months for enhancing our understanding of issues such as the ones outlined above (and no doubt more besides). When they do, we can expect to see the fight for “TV” dollars warm up as advertisers gain confidence in their ability to reach audiences in locations more relevant to their message than the couch in the family room (assuming that’s what the research reveals, of course).”