New York -- Nielsen Media Research's latest ratings
refinement for the world of convergence will involve tracking future television and cable
viewership on personal computers, the company said in a presentation to reporters last
Initially, the metering will be limited to households with
Microsoft Corp.'s forthcoming Windows 98 operating system.
The metering system, developed jointly with Microsoft
Corp., will be able to measure TV viewing on the PC within Nielsen's sample
households. John Dimling, Nielsen's president, said he could not be precise on when
Windows 98 and the new metering system would be in sample homes, other than that it would
be within the year.
Although the Windows 98 users would be a small sub-sample,
Nielsen executives said the new technology will enable the researcher to begin tracking
the different audience patterns that are sure to emerge as TV viewership increasingly
incorporates PC/Internet usage.
David Harkness, senior vice president of planning and
development at Nielsen, said that homes where TV and PC viewing converage -- for instance,
via WebTV -- are already 'finding their way into our sample homes.'
Nielsen also is talking with the other, unidentified,
companies with TV/PC services, because this metering technology is applicable to them as
well, Nielsen spokesman Jack Loftus said later.
Microsoft has no ownership position in Nielsen's new
metering system, according to a Nielsen fact sheet distributed after the press briefing.
The spokesman added that the new refinement was presented
to NBC executives last week and to Turner Broadcasting System Inc. executives two weeks
ago, as well as to Nielsen's national clients' meeting about a month ago.
Nielsen last week demonstrated the system by showing
segments of the syndicated Rosie O'Donnell Show, Matlock and Beverly
Hills 90210 over New York TV stations, as well as clicking onto the Internet for
additional information on Rosie. A blowup of the metered data on that erratic
viewing within a 10-minute time span captured which programs were watched, how long they
were watched and the duration of Internet usage, to the second.
Dimling said later that it was 'premature' to
talk about whether its ratings subscribers would pay extra for this additional data.
The Windows 98 refinement will supplement Nielsen's
Active/Passive Meter data, where necessary. Dimling said that Nielsen's A/P Meter
test preparations are on track.
The company has begun installing the new Windows 98 meters
in the test households, in 13 Northeastern states, and hopes to produce its first audience
data by the 1998 third quarter.
The A/P meter will be installed in one-half of those 500
homes, while the remaining 250 homes will have both the new meter and the current one for