Rentrak Pitches Operators on VOD


For 18 years, Rentrak Corp. has been collecting and distributing key economic usage data for the theatrical and home video industries.

It now wants to take that experience and trusted expertise to the cable industry to gather statistics on video-on-demand services.

At the National Show in Chicago, two companies presented measurement ideas to the Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing's On Demand consortium, a key industry committee created to sort through sticky VOD issues. Nielsen Media Research, the subject of a July On Demand
story, made one presentation. Rentrak made the other.

"We're in the of information management," said Ken Papagan, executive vice president of Rentrak, based in Portland, Ore. "That's the value proposition. We have a unified reporting system and very robust capability to look at transactional data on an instantaneous basis."

Each day, Rentrak gathers information from 5,000 sources (video stores and theaters) on which movie titles and games have been rented or sold to consumers. The company also tracks box office revenue and reports back to studios.

The pitch Rentrak has for cable: "We'd like to aggregate all data from all sources for on demand," Papagan said. "We have an 18-year history, noted reliability and a trust factor."

Collecting data, as Papagan suggests, requires "a third party who is objective."

Rentrak's clients — in this case, cable operators and programming providers — would set the business rules as to who is allowed to see what data.

Operators are very protective of the viewership and purchasing data that originates from their VOD servers. But Papagan suggests the more information operators share with programmers, the better the programmers ability to provide VOD content that consumers want.

"Programmers and advertisers will work hard to get content that works on-demand if MSOs provide the information. The payoff is in increased lift in buy-rates," he said.

Rentrak actually began operations as a small video-store owner in the mid-1980s. Tracking down tapes using bar codes gave executives the idea of entering the traffic-tracking business.

Now it counts studios, video stores, theaters and gaming companies as clients.

"We own the data and own the rules, based on what the companies want," Papagan said. "The other side doesn't get to see material and all that translates directly to cable."

Papagan said Rentrak has met with most MSOs and is now doing follow-up calls. "They have been receptive. In order to get what they want, they are going to have to share this information," he said.

One senior MSO VOD executive explained the importance of getting tracking information, which could be a combination of Nielsen [Media Research] for ad sales, and Rentrak for other content.

"We have to do something," he said.

Papagan emphasized that Rentrak engages in census gathering, rather than sampling, so it would accrue information on every VOD transaction based on server logs, and not on a small, representative sample.

"Actual activity, instead of sampling, is a necessity in on-demand advertising reporting," Papagan said.

Rentrak offer customizable reporting parameters and access to Web-based management reporting systems. Clients include all seven major studios; Regal, MAC and Loews cinemas; Blockbuster Video, Hollywood Video and even Safeway and King Soopers.