TV-Web Ratings Group Wants To 'Light A Fire' Under Nielsen

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Major cable and broadcast programmers, ad agencies and marketers are taking on Nielsen Media Research -- the industry standard used to set TV ad rates -- with an effort to consolidate viewing metrics across television and the Web.

"The point is to light a fire under the ass of Nielsen and create some innovation and competition," one executive involved in the project wrote in an e-mail message to Multichannel News.

The companies involved in the consortium expect it to be operational by September, theFinancial Times reported Friday. Participants include networks owned by NBC Universal, Time Warner Inc., News Corp., Viacom, CBS, Discovery Communications and Walt Disney Co., according to the newspaper. Advertisers on board are Procter & Gamble, AT&T and Unilever, as well as two agencies, WPP's GroupM and Starcom MediaVest.

Representatives from Viacom's MTV Networks, Disney-ABC Television Group, NBC Universal, Time Warner Inc.'s Turner Broadcasting System and Discovery Communications declined to comment on the report.

Nielsen representatives did not respond to a request for comment.

Sam Armando, senior vice president of audience analysis at Starcom Mediavest, was quoted by the Financial Times as saying, "The most deficient thing is there's no single source measurement [for TV and digital video]."

The new TV-Web ratings consortium is expected to award contracts for measuring set-top box data and cross-platform viewers across TV and digital sources as early as the fourth quarter of 2009, according to the Financial Times.

Companies and groups that provide set-top box measurement services include Rentrak, TNS Media Research, TiVo and TRA Data. Canoe Ventures, formed by the six biggest U.S. cable operators, also has plans to consolidate set-top data metrics from its members. Firms that measure Internet-video viewing include comScore and Nielsen's NetRatings.

Nielsen in October 2008 launched its TV/Internet Convergence panel, which measures viewing of about 2,800 consumers across both platforms, but a full rollout of that service with a nationally representative sample is not expected until 2011.

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