Marketing

Set-Top Data Gets Vocal in Local

8/08/2011 12:01 AM Eastern

How many people watched the late local
news last week, and for how long?

That’s been a tough question for some broadcast-TV
stations to answer reliably for advertisers. Now, after years
of frustration with Nielsen’s spotty ratings, stations are
getting better answers by tapping into set-top box data
from cable, satellite and telco TV providers.

“This has been a real pain point for local TV,” Jane Clarke,
managing director of the Coalition for Innovative Media Measurement,
said. “The issue is the stability of the Nielsen data.
Literally, people can go on vacation [in a diary market] and it
looks like nobody is watching your 10 o’clock news.”

Rentrak has aggressively chased after the local-TV measurement
space and now counts 79 stations in 44 markets,
representing 26 station groups, as customers for its
StationView Essentials product. Th e fi rm, which has offered
an audience-measurement product since 2009, collects
data spanning 210 markets from 18 million set-top
boxes via agreements with operators including Dish Network,
AT&T and Charter Communications.

Rentrak local ratings are “stable and continuous,” according
to Nick Matesi, vice president and general manager of Gray
Television’s KOLO-TV, the ABC affiliate in Reno, Nevada. The
service “is an innovative and necessary resource for our station
to make better tactical and strategic decisions across
sales, programming and promotions departments,” he said.

Besides measuring audience, set-top data can be crossreferenced
with other data sources to give TV advertisers
an idea of demographic composition of audience, as well as
purchasing results. Rentrak, for example, has integrated databases
from Experian and Epsilon Data Management with
its StationView Essentials service.

NIELSEN RESPONDS

The activity on the local front appears to have spurred Nielsen
into action. Last month, the research company announced
that it inked a deal with WPP’s Kantar Media to incorporate
set-top box data from about 100,000 DirecTV households (projectable
to 17 million homes) into local TV ratings.

But Nielsen did not have a time frame for when it will use
the DirecTV data. It said it has developed a methodology to
normalize National People Meter panel data using data from
set-top boxes and other sources for markets that currently rely
on diary-based measurement.

“We’re early in the process,” Nielsen senior vice president
of product leadership Pat Dineen said. “Our next steps are
to procure more set-top box data, continue to work with clients
and work internally to secure the resources to accomplish
this.”

Nielsen’s research has shown set-top data can smooth out
wild variations in viewing data. According to a study it conducted
with data from Charter last summer, the firm found
that set-top data eliminated between 50% and 90% of the variability
for ratings in a diary market.

Advertisers and local ad-sales representatives
are looking for better metrics, in large part
because they’ve seen much more accurate data
from the Internet world, TiVo senior vice president
and general manager content and media
sales Tara Maitra said.

“The ability to measure audiences online has
highlighted the fact that we don’t have an accurate
measurement for television,” Maitra said. She
added, “It’s very difficult to change behavior that’s
been set for 50 years.”

TIVO INTO FRAY

TiVo has launched its local ratings-measurement
service in three markets: San Francisco; Orlando,
Fla.; and Tucson, Ariz. “The value to the local stations
is the same value to advertisers, networks
and agencies — this is a second-by-second look at
how programming is viewed,” Maitra said.

On the local level, cable operators have long had set-top box
data to use to arm their sales teams all to themselves, Clarke
said.

While MSOs cite subscriber-privacy concerns for not releasing
set-top data — a valid concern, according to Clarke
— part of the reluctance may be a desire to keep the information
proprietary. “The cable operators have been using it to
their advantage,” she said.

UNPACKING THE BOXES

Rentrak: Tracks 210 U.S. markets using data from 18
million set-tops via deals with operators including Dish
Network, AT&T and Charter.

Nielsen: Plans to incorporate data from 100,000 DirecTV
households into ratings for local diary markets.

TiVo: Offers local ad metrics to clients in San
Francisco, Orlando and Tucson, Ariz., based on national
350,000-household sample of DVR users.

SOURCE: Multichannel News research

September