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First Client for Real-Time Ratings

TNS Media Research last week lined up ad agency Starcom USA as its first customer for a new audience-measurement service that will use data captured by and passed on from the set-top boxes of 100,000 DirecTV subscribers.

Starcom will be using DIRECTView, a service unveiled in January by TNS Media Research and DirecTV, the nation's biggest satellite provider. The service, which TNS Media Research is touting as the largest national U.S. audience-measurement service, is slated to launch in the third quarter, according to George Shababb, TNS Media Research's chief operating officer.

“Set-top data are becoming very much central to audience measurement in the United States,” he said.

DIRECTView will track viewership of both ads and programming, measuring live as well as time-shifted viewing.

“We will have commercial-occurrence information integrated with the data on a second-by-second level, so we can get down to true commercial ratings,” Shababb said.

Starcom, seeking to understand the viewing habits of digital consumers, first entered into an agreement with TNS Media Research in November 2006. That deal entailed analyzing viewing data from the set-tops of 320,000 Charter Communications digital subscribers in the Los Angeles market.

“The DIRECTView service will allow us to have a clearer perspective on consumer behaviors to better serve our clients and make sure we have an edge as the industry adapts to new ways of thinking,” Starcom senior vice president/video innovation director Tracey Scheppach said in a prepared statement.

Nielsen Media Research has also launched a commercial service, Nielsen DigitalPlus, that collects viewership data from set-top boxes. In an agreement announced in March, Nielsen will be measuring the minute-by-minute viewing of Charter's digital homes in Los Angeles.

TNS Media Research will process DirecTV's set-top data and provide next-day analysis through InfoSys, which will provide Starcom with direct access to detailed data and analyses of national-viewing patterns.

In addition to general viewing and programming behavior, Starcom will be able to analyze second-by-second commercial ratings.

However, at the outset DIRECTView will not be able to provide individual demographic data from the 100,000 DirecTV panel, but rather more broad information based on the attributes of the satellite provider's subscribers, such as what region they live in, according to Shababb.

“They'll be some composition information at the household level in this first phase,” he said. “Long-term, the plan would be to actually provide demographics down at the level of individuals.”