Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Rethinking the Concept of TV Ratings

It takes us beyond sampling to census.

-Janice Finkel-Greene, director of futures and technology, Interpublic Group's Initiative

In Steve McClellan, MSOs Look to Capitalize on STB Data, AdWeek, May 19, 2008

A profound shift is taking place in the way advertisers think about television, and in the way cable and satellite provides are thinking about their relationships with advertisers. The trend is toward finding a way to use database information about households, and even information in households, to send different commercials to the different households. The implications for the standard Nielsen ratings service is huge. Instead of relying on Nielsen's approach of sampling thousands (soon, tens of thousands) of people to produce projected numbers, the holy grail has become getting a "census" of viewing by auditing the set-top box of cable and satellite subscribers. There are still many challenges, including getting information many different cable firms and getting around Federal regulations that prohibit cable firms from releasing viewing data of customers to marketers. Yet the rush is on, with major firms such as Nielsen, a cable consortium called Canoe Ventures, and major advertising-industry figures such as David Verklin and Alec Gerstner involved. Nielsen sees its activities as part of its attempts to connect information on all media use and buying habits. Canoe is the cable industry’s attempt to control its own destiny in the face of increased competition from the RBOCs and Google. It will take a while, but these new initiatives will push TV in fundamentally new directions.

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