Comcast has helped Nielsen get over a major hurdle on the
road to TV Everywhere by developing a way to measure viewing on iPads.
Nielsen plans to tell customers on March 25 it hopes to
include iPads in its TV panels by the end of the year and begin incorporating
mobile viewing into the C3 and C7 ratings used to buy and sell advertising.
Measuring how much viewing is happening on tablets,
smartphones and other mobile devices is needed for programmers to monetize
content at a time when traditional TV ratings appear to be slipping because of
time-shifting and other digital disruptions to the traditional couch-potato
experience. Last month, Nielsen added homes where TV sets are connected to the
Internet to its ratings universe.
A key part of the elusive solution to adding tablet viewing
was developed by engineers at Comcast-a big supporter of TV Everywhere as a way
to combat cord-cutting-working closely with Nielsen.
"Our goal is pretty simple in all of this," says Matt
Strauss, senior VP of digital and emerging platforms at Comcast Cable, which
has had 10 million of its Xfinity video apps downloaded. "We want to help
foster cross-platform measurement for the industry so subscribers can continue
to get access to more and more choices across platforms, and programmers have
the ability to better monetize their content. And we don't want to simply
admire the issue of cross-platform measurement. We want to help solve it."
Nielsen has been working on trying to measure viewing on
tablets since 2011. One problem was that the way Nielsen identifies content is
by using audio tones, but those tones do not pass through the operating system
on Apple devices. Comcast came up with the idea for putting the information
Nielsen needs into something called ID3 tags, which originally were used on MP3
music files to carry metadata such as track and artist information. The
information is read by the Xfinity app and transmitted back to Nielsen.
The approach worked in the lab, and in December and January,
a technical trial was conducted in the homes of Comcast and Nielsen personnel.
"Nielsen was able to validate and confirm that the end-toend ecosystem worked,
that the codes were detected and they provided the necessary information to
provide viewing credit," Strauss says.
Now Comcast is working with Nielsen on the question of "how
quickly can they bring this approach to the industry and make it available to
all the distributors and programmers that want to participate," Strauss adds.
Using an app from a multichannel distributor like Comcast is
just one way consumers can access video on a mobile device, says Brian Fuhrer,
senior VP, national and cross-platform product leadership at Nielsen.
Nevertheless, the successful technical trial with Comcast was a big step toward
a solution. "The MSO example is the one that's most like TV, with a full
channel lineup and full commercial loads," Fuhrer adds. The next phase will
come with getting content owners to get their apps metered as well.
"I don't want to underestimate the amount of collaborating
that needs to happen. But from our perspective, we want to have our panel ready
for measurement by the end of this year, and hopefully sooner than that," says
Fuhrer. "Our best-case scenario from a currency perspective is early 2014. But
we definitely want to be providing analytics earlier than that. Our clients are
asking for at least early preview data, and that's what we're focused on right
That might not be fast enough for some clients, but Fuhrer
says Nielsen is gaining momentum. "The meeting will be a call to action of
making sure people know we are making really good progress, and it's time for
those who haven't engaged to get this moving along," he says.
The solution should also work on Android and other mobile
Enabling viewers to watch what they want, when they want and
on the device they choose has become a big part of the TV industry's battle
At Comcast, television shows have supplanted movies, music
and kids programming as the most popular fare on its on-demand system.
"This year we'll track close to a billion hours of just TV
viewing on-demand," Strauss says. A year ago, Comcast-both as distributor and
as content owner through NBCUniversal-started collaborating with Nielsen on
measuring video-on-demand. By using streams with the same commercial loads as
live TV and disabling the fast-forward function, VOD viewing gets added to a
show's C3 ratings.
"We've seen an increase in prime shifted commercial viewing
of 15%- 20%," Strauss says. "So we know the measurement piece is critical. And
when you have it in place like we do now with VOD, it can really become a
meaningful opportunity of how content continues to get monetized."
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