Charter Communications Teams Up with Nielsen on Set-Top Data

Ratings giant Nielsen officially launched a service that uses digital set-tops to measure television viewing and announced that cable operator Charter Communications will be the first to participate in the service.

As advertisers have placed increasing pressure on broadcast and cable networks to deliver the same type of accountability that Internet advertising can deliver, the addressability of two-way digital set-tops has been touted by the TV industry as a powerful solution for measuring TV consumption.

Nielsen has been promising a service based on set-top data for several years, and competing measurement firm TNS Media Intelligence already started such a tracking service for cable programmers like Discovery Communications and ESPN. Rentrak also uses set-top data in a video-on-demand-measurement service it sells to major cable operators.

"Charter is committed to improving the precision of local-market measurement,” senior vice president of advertising sales Jim Heneghan said in a statement. “By working with Nielsen, we are ensuring that our advertiser and agency clients get the most reliable data possible to evaluate their media buys.”

Charter is providing Nielsen with anonymous STB viewing data from almost 330,000 households in the Los Angeles area, which Nielsen will develop into commercially available analyses and reports of digital-television viewership.

Privacy concerns have been a major stumbling block to commercializing set-top-tracking services and, as such, the companies emphasized that they will take adequate measures to protect customers’ privacy. Charter will only provide data in anonymous form, and all Nielsen reports will contain only anonymous and aggregated data.

Nielsen said the research it conducts with Charter will represent the first time census-level tuning data and panel-based People Meter viewing data will be combined to produce expanded household and demographic reporting from a local television market. The Charter STB analyses will be available to Nielsen’s clientele in the second quarter of 2008.

“At a time of rapid technological change in the television industry, Nielsen is inventing new ways to measure how people watch television,” said Jed Meyer, senior VP of Nielsen DigitalPlus, in a statement. “Through these studies, we will provide Charter with new insights on the consumption of all digital video. At the same time, we will be investigating the potential of digital set-top boxes and the data they generate to enhance our existing audience-measurement services.”