Marketing

Set-Top Data Guidelines Gel

5/31/2011 8:01 AM Eastern

The logjam holding back set-top data in TV
measurement on a major scale may be about to break.

Later this summer, the first draft of guidelines defining
how pay TV providers collect and report
data from set-top boxes is expected to be released
for public comment. The document
is being developed by the Media Ratings
Council, in conjunction with NCC Media,
the local ad-sales organization owned
by Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Cox
Communications.

The goal: to ensure that set-top data is
gathered in the same way across all cable,
satellite and telco providers to get an accurate
read across a much larger base of viewers
— potentially over the large majority of
U.S. households. The initiative has the backing
and participation of 19 of the largest pay
TV operators, though MRC and NCC are not
identifying them at this point.

“This is what we’re all waiting for,” Coalition
for Innovative Media Measurement
managing director Jane Clarke said. CIMM
was formed in 2009 by media companies,
ad agencies and marketers to foster new
forms of audience measurement research,
including set-top box data.

“You need to be assured that a tuning
event from Dish is the same as a tuning event from Comcast,”
Clarke explained. “We can’t combine data until we
can define what the data elements are.”

She added, “Most CIMM members don’t even want to
look at set-top data until this is done.”

MRC CEO George
Ivie said the group is
now on the sixth draft
of the guidel ines,
which cover details
around collect ion,
processing and storage
of the data, including
the process
of removing personally
identifiable information
to comply with
privacy regulations.

“We’re getting to
a point where we are
fairly close to [exposing]
them to the industry
and then the
public,” he said.

The guidelines
should be open for
public comment later
this summer, according
to Nick Garramone,
NCC senior
vice president of ebusiness
operations and research.

The MRC began working on the project in August 2010
in association with NCC. “In the beginning it was hard to
get everyone in the room and build consensus,” Ivie said.
“We were not confident we could get it done. Now we are
feeling pretty good.”

Some of the remaining work left to be done concerns
how operators should handle missing or erroneous data
to ensure quality control, as well as arriving at a standard
identifier for networks and content.

As to the latter area, Clarke said CIMM’s Trackable Asset
Cross-Platform Identification (TAXI) project may fit
the bill. TAXI is aimed at arriving at an open standard for
identifying programs and ads.

Ivie noted that the MRC
guidelines will not include
“audience edits,” leaving
that up to third-party research
vendors.

For example, if two TVs
in a home are tuned to the
same program, the set-top
data guidelines will recommend
reporting that as two
separate events instead of
treating it as one household
view. The same goes for how
to account for set-tops that
have been left on, say, overnight
and it’s probable that
nobody was actually watching
TV in the wee hours.

The MRC-developed
guidelines won’t be a silver
bullet. The operators must
still be willing to furnish the
data to research firms like
Nielsen, Kantar Media and
Rentrak. “This is one step in
a process,” Ivie acknowledged. “I’ve never represented that
this is an end-all. It’s an interim.”

It’s also worth noting that set-top data would still not account
for TV viewing in analog cable homes or over-theair
households, even though those numbers are declining.
But industry executives said
getting a baseline standard
for set-top data collection
and reporting is a crucial
step forward.

“The idea is that we can
go through set-top data and
start with a base set of language,
so a viewer is a viewer
is a viewer,” Garramone
said. “Today it’s balkanized.”

NCC was the best organization
to tackle the set-top
standardization project, because
it works with not just
cable but also satellite and
telco operators, according
to both Ivie and Garramone.

“If you look at existing organizations,
like CableLabs
and Canoe, none of them go
across all these [multichannel
video programming distributors],”
Ivie said.

THINKING INSIDE THE BOX

The MRC guidelines for set-top data
would define:

· Minimum number of required fields;

· A standard metadata framework for identifying
networks and content;

· Privacy measures spelling out what the
data cannot be used for;

· How to treat erroneous or missing information.

SOURCE: Multichannel News research

September