Quick thoughts on Nielsen-Comcast

Today’s quick thought…

With Nielsen’s announcement of their partnership with Comcast on set-top box data for local market audiences, it’s clear that measurement purists will have to accept the fact that future audience measures will be based mostly on “virtual” viewers, not real ones. Set-top box data – like router meter data for streaming devices – is a device measure, not a persons measure. Therefore, actual viewing – if there is viewing, who is viewing, how long is the viewing, and coviewing – all has to be modeled.

As a realist, there are probably no other viable options given today’s audience fragmentation and the need to get program-level ratings. And tuning data will certainly be more reliable than it was for paper diaries. But buying and selling on modeled viewers has to scare buyers and sellers alike.

While a number of services have been doing modeling from STB data for a number of years, none have had to carry the mantle of currency like Nielsen. There are a lot of potential pitfalls, from the quality of the data stream from the STBs to how the models are derived and validated, so it will be interesting to see how this plays out. And if final resulting service will be accredited by the MRC (subject of a good article here).

David Tice is the principal of TiceVision LLC, a media research consultancy.
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