Nielsen, under a multiyear deal with WPP's Kantar Media, will incorporate set-top box data from about 100,000 DirecTV households into local TV ratings.
Nielsen said it has developed a proprietary, hybrid methodology for the U.S. market that combines the research firm's National People Meter panel data with set-top box and other sources of data for markets that currently rely on diary-based measurement.
In a test last summer, Nielsen interpolated set-top data from Charter Communications in three markets into local TV ratings (for St. Louis, Greenville, S.C., and Reno, Nev.). According to Nielsen, the set-top data eliminated between 50% and 90% of the variability for ratings in a diary market.
Kantar Media's DirectView service provides live and time-shifted information -- with second-by-second commercial ratings -- from 100,000 national DirecTV households projectable to 17 million households.
"DirectView is one of many sources of data Nielsen is incorporating in our efforts to provide higher-quality local TV audience measurement," Steve Hasker, president of Nielsen Media Products & Advertiser Solutions, said in a statement. "Our innovative approach to enhance local TV measurement addresses the technological limitations of using set-top box data alone, and we expect it will provide valuable benefits to local TV markets."
Nielsen did not indicate what other sources it intends to add into local TV ratings, nor did it indicate how many local markets the DirecTV data will be applied to. Other companies that sell local audience measurement include Rentrak and TiVo.
In e-mailed comments, Nielsen senior vice president of product leadership Pat Dineen said the company's policy is to only discuss relationships "that have been mutually agreed upon for disclosure in the press. We have relationships with every major provider of return-path data, and we cannot comment on the nature of each one."
As for which markets Nielsen will use the DirecTV data, Dineen said Nielsen expects to use it in diary markets, "but we're early in the process. Our next steps are to procure more set-top box data, continue to work with clients and work internally to secure the resources to accomplish this."
Nielsen said it selected Kantar's DirectView service because it is one of the largest set-top box data sets in the U.S.
Kantar also is working with Charter to integrate set-top return-path data in markets beyond Los Angeles, including suburban Boston, Hartford, Conn., Birmingham, Ala., Stockton/Sacramento, Calif., and Fort Worth, Texas.