Nielsen Speeds Up DVR-Viewing Research


Nielsen Media Research, accelerating its plans because of the quickening deployment of DVRs, plans to start tracking time-shifted viewing as part of its national and local ratings services next year.

Nielsen informed clients of its plans in a seven-page memo last Wednesday, saying it will start to include time-shifted viewing from personal video recorders and digital video recorders, beginning with local set-metered markets in April 2005, followed by the national and local People Meter services in July 2005.

“While PVR and DVR penetration levels remain modest to date, the anticipated acceleration of growth — due largely to MSO and digital satellite deployment of set-top boxes with DVR functionality — has created an urgent need for Nielsen to change its timetable to measure time-shifted viewing,” Nielsen said in the memo.

The memo was accompanied by a letter from Nielsen CEO Susan Whiting, who said the ratings service, which has been bypassing DVR homes, stepped up its plans to measure time-shifted viewing by a year.

“There are risks, of course, in moving more quickly,” Whiting wrote. “We all need to work together to manage those risks. I am confident we can do that.

“The alternative is to delay, to continue bypassing greater numbers of sample homes, to do more analyses, more testing. The business and technology of television are changing much too quickly, and we have to keep apace of it.”

Nielsen’s Active/Passive Meter, which relies on active audio codes and passive signatures, will be the cornerstone for identifying time-shifting activity in all metered samples.

MTV Networks executive vice president of research and planning Betsy Frank was pleased that Nielsen, which last month signed a deal to market DVR-usage information with TiVo Inc., will aggressively pursue the measurement of time-shifting in non-TiVo households.

“This suggests that ultimately, our learning about DVR households will not be just be driven by TiVo owners alone, but will include people who have DVRs as part of their set-top box either from their cable MSO, or from satellite,” Frank said. “That’s important, because TiVo already is not the dominant share of DVRs in use, and as MSO rollouts accelerate, TiVo will be a shrinking share of DVRs.”

But Frank expressed concerns about Nielsen’s latest plans, including that the ratings service now has a number of major initiatives on its plate in addition to measuring time-shifting, all of which might be straining its resources.