Cable Show 2013: Nets Press Nielsen To End Need For 'Frankenmetrics'

With TV programming streaming on new devices not yet measured by Nielsen, media companies are turning to Frankenmetrics to tally and sell their viewers to advertisers.

“There’s not one currency for that like there is for linear broadcast,” said Sherry Brennan, senior VP of strategy & development at Fox Networks, speaking at a panel called Making It Count: New Approaches to Media Measurement and Reporting on Tuesday at the Cable Show. “It means we have to cobble together metrics from different sources if an advertiser wants to make a single buy with us.”

“For advertisers, it’s really important that any metric is vetted by a third party,” she said. Normally that’s Nielsen’s role, but for now Nielsen is just one of a number of companies measuring the online space.

Jack Wakshlag, chief research officer for Turner Broadcasting, who moderated the panel, noted that the traditional business is used to getting metrics on every metric and ever viewer every day from Nielsen and asked Nielsen senior VP for national & cross platform audience Brian Fuhrer how Nielsen was expanding its coverage.

Fuhrer said it was a challenge for Nielsen to both keep it its standard while building for the future. But he said Nielsen was expanding its definition of TV homes to include those who receive programming via broadband on TV sets. It is also beginning to include in its ratings set in current TV homes that are hooked up to broadband or game consoles hook up to a TV set.

“The traditional way of viewing needed to be expanded and rethought,” Fuhrer said. With smaller and more fragmented audiences, Nielsen needs additional data integrated into its systems, so it will be employing a hybrid of the data from its panels and census data coming directly from distributors and devices.

A key device that needs to be measured it the tablet. “A tablet or iPad that has access to a live linear cable lineup with a quality picture is pretty indecipherable from a television. It’s been a big initiative on our radar screens,” Fuhrer said.

Fuhrer said it required a lot of collaboration to measure table viewing because measurement software has to be downloaded onto the device via network apps. “It’s the most invasive measurement approach we’ve ever undertaken,” he said.

He said he expected Nielsen to start to generate data in the fall, to have preview data in the spring or summer and be able to incorporate tablet viewing into the measurement currencies in the fall of 2014.

Privacy can be an issue as more and more data gets collected and share with programmers. That’s particularly sensitive when it comes to children.

“It’s one of the biggest challenges. There are marketers and networks specifically targeted at kids and if we don’t do it right we certainly hear about it,” Fuhrer said. An advantage of Nielsen’s panel system is that the company has parental permission to monitor their children’s media consumption.

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.