Cablers Brainstorm Innovative Research Tactics


Washington -- In a discussion about innovative strides in cable research at the CTAM Summit here Monday, one of the more cutting-edge practices was presented by NBC Universal vice president of news research Jo Holz.

“NBC has been using neurological and biometric methods of research,” she said, explaining how its testing seeks to address the impacts that people aren’t aware of, don’t want to admit to or can’t articulate.

By outfitting 20 regular viewers of Heroes with specially designed vests during digital-video-recorder playback of the show, the network was able to measure heart rate, respiration, galvanic skin response and physical activities of each volunteer.

One question they sought to answer, Holz said: “Are people getting anything out of the commercials as they’re fast-forwarding through them on their DVR?”

The study found that people were actually highly engaged, evidenced by tracking eye movement and other physiological responses similar to those achieved during real-time commercial viewing.

“People did remember brands pretty much to the same extent as they did during real time,” she added.

Admittedly, the study spurred questions regarding impacts on the subconscious in cases where people were affected physically by commercials but couldn’t remember the brand names, but on the whole, Holz said NBC has been talking a lot about this kind of research. “This kind of measurement has been around, but the technology now is much less intrusive,” she added.

The next step would be to address programming elements.

Another nontraditional research tactic, presented by TV Guide Network VP of research Megan Costello, was promoting user surveys through MySpace via the social-networking site’s “Look-Alike,” which solicits photos from users who think they look like celebrities.

“They would give us a lot of advice about how to run the network and who should be on the shows,” Costello said, adding that to date, the site had received more than 4,000 photos. That helps TV Guide by giving it a better idea of who its audience is and yielding information that can be further processed in focus groups.

Other ideas, using either in-house research metrics or outsourced study techniques, were also discussed by Turner Broadcasting System, Rainbow Media Holdings, A&E Television Networks, Oxygen Media and FX.