Nielsen to Track PVR/DVR Viewing in ‘05


Accelerating its plans due to wider personal-video-recorder deployment, Nielsen Media Research plans to start tracking time-shifted viewing as part of its national and local ratings services next year, officials said Wednesday.

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

"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 its memo to clients.

The memo was accompanied by a letter from Nielsen president and CEO Susan Whiting, who said the ratings service is accelerating its plans to measure time-shifted viewing by one 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 of its metered samples, according to the ratings service.

All playback tuning and viewing will be collected at the same time live data are collected, with the playback date accumulated for seven days. After the seventh day, the playback data will be aggregated and combined with the live tuning, and the data will be re-released.

As part of its plan, Nielsen is ramping up a stand-alone panel of no fewer than 100 households to fine-tune a new prompting mechanism that will be necessary for its People Meter households in order to track time-shifted viewing.

Nielsen will hold client meetings over the next month to review its time-shifting plans in detail.