Nielsen is accelerating plans to measure Internet activity among a subset of its National People Meter panel, aiming to provide a "single source" measurement for both television and online consumption of video content by August 2010.
Previously, the media-measurement firm had told clients the full rollout of the Internet metering software wouldn't happen until 2011. Nielsen's current plan is to roll out Internet measurement to approximately 7,500 National People Meter households -- representing about 20,000 people and 12,000 computers -- starting Dec. 23 and finishing by Aug. 31, 2010.
"This will enable the measurement of online viewing to television content among the same People Meter households that are the source of Nielsen's national television ratings," Sara Erichson, president of Nielsen's media client services for North America, wrote in a letter to clients Tuesday. "This new single source panel is designed to meet the needs of multiple client business models and will serve as the foundation for a number of Nielsen's cross-platform measurement solutions."
The company's "TVandPC" initiative is separate from the 200,000 computers measured in its Nielsen Online panel.
Nielsen's revised schedule comes after a consortium of 14 media companies, ad agencies and marketers -- the Coalition for Innovative Media Measurement -- was formed this summer to foster the development of new forms of audience tracking, including cross-platform viewing.
Another major factor that drove Nielsen to move up the date for the TV-plus-PC ratings was the cable industry's move to adopt "TV Everywhere" services. Nielsen has said online views of the same ads could be counted toward overall TV ratings. However, Nielsen spokeswoman Karen Gyimesi noted, the company is not yet announcing "when we will be able to add TV Everywhere into the ratings -- this is only about the rollout of Internet measurement into our TV panel."
On Oct. 16, Nielsen met with cable operators, programmers, broadcasters, ad agencies and advertisers in New York to discuss measuring Internet-video and TV viewing in a consolidated fashion and to get input on how "TV Everywhere" online services may be combined into its ratings.
Erichson summarized the meeting by saying "there was broad client support" for the TVandPC concept, but that some wanted Nielsen to speed up its timetable for delivering the combined ratings. At the same time, clients wanted to ensure the project doesn't distort the existing TV ratings.
"Discussion focused on the attention that must be placed in balancing speed of deployment with quality," Erichson wrote.
Nielsen has been testing TVandPC measurement with 375 households. The company said households that installed the software have small differences compared with the larger national sample: The TVandPC homes are more likely to have a head of household 65 or older; not have cable; have three or more TV sets; have income less than $75,000; and have a member of the household who is not a college graduate.
"Computational adjustments will be employed, if necessary," Nielsen noted, when reporting Internet usage.
The company said participation in the Internet measurement piece among households currently metered for TV will be optional. "If a household refuses to allow its computer usage to be measured, it will still remain in the panel for television-only measurement," the company said in a document explaining the rollout.
Nielsen will attempt to meter all laptops and desktops owned by a household -- both within and outside the home. The PCs will be metered with the Nielsen Online NetSight Meter, a software application that tracks Web sites visited, pages viewed and time spent as well as video consumed. The software allows panelists to "log in" so their personal usage can be attributed to them, similar to the television People Meter.
Currently the NetSight software runs only on recent versions of Windows and is not compatible with Mac or Linux computers; Nielsen said it is currently developing a Mac-compatible meter and expects to deploy that in 2010.
Nielsen originally launched the Anytime Anywhere Media Measurement (A2/M2) initiative in 2006.