Q&A: Rentrak's Sandra Kilbridge

Rentrak announced last week that it is partnering with Charter Communications to trial Rentrak's TV Essentials product designed to measure linear TV usage patterns. The trial will focus on the relationship between linear television and on-demand viewing patterns. Rentrak's vice president of operations, AMI Division, Sandra Kilbridge spoke with Local Ad Sales about the trial and Rentrak's TV Essentials product. Prior to joining Rentrak, Kilbridge gained extensive cable industry and video-on-demand experience via executive positions at Comedy Central and Showtime Networks. An edited transcript follows:

Q: What is the goal of this trial?
The TV Essentials product will enable customers to analyze audience viewing of linear programming and advertising and provides analysis that can be used to generate a number of reports including audience flow, retention and day-part analysis on both a national and local level. This trial is designed to show the relationship between on demand and linear TV viewing patterns.

Q: How does it differ from the other TV Essentials trials you have going?
Each trial is a little different. With Charter, we will be looking at the operator's Los Angeles market intensively. Among other things, we'll be telescoping the performance of advanced advertising measurements.

Q: Are you trialing this product elsewhere?
We announced a trial with Dish Network last November and we have discussed in analyst meetings a trial with a telco provider. [Multichannel News reported earlier that the telco partner is AT&T U-Verse.] Charter will be our third data partner trialing TV Essentials.

Q: What do you hope to learn?
There is so much we can learn with the linear information we will be gathering even without tying it to on-demand viewing. But being able to put the data from both together will provide operators with a very powerful tool.

Q: How long will the trial last?
We're not announcing that at this point. We hope to make the product commercially available and monetize it when it makes sense to do so. But we think it will be a valuable product for operators. We already work with the top 25 MSOs and several smaller operators which are using our On Demand Essentials product. We expect to have more partners using our TV Essentials product going forward. We also expect to have trial partners for our upcoming broadband and mobile products.

Q: How will TV Essentials help local ad sales executives?
As everyone is well aware, we are in a tough economic environment and sales executives need to get creative with their sales pitches. This product will enable them to put together new sales reports and allows them to be more accountable. The reports that can be generated with this product will pique advertisers' interest in ways not available to sales teams in the past. They can use the information gathered by this product to create interesting promotions to drive sales. This will help ad sales executives sell more spots, it will help programmers maximize their scheduling, and it will help marketers create more effective cross-promotion schedules. Operators will be able to see which networks are driving particular tiers and whether on demand channels are affecting linear channel viewing.
Rentrak's TV Essentials system processes data from more than seven million set-top boxes to help advertising agencies, networks and local stations make business decisions to drive increased revenue.

Q: Privacy issues always seem to muddy the waters of these extensive tracking trials. Have you experienced that and how have you worked around consumer advocates' concerns?
All the data we receive is anonymous so there are no privacy concerns. We never analyze individual set-tops. All the information we gather is of aggregated trending information. The TV Essentials system is able to aggregate and report anonymous second-by-second information from millions of digital set-top boxes. The system can isolate individual market, network, series, or telecast performances, administer national and local estimates, and provide an evaluation of influencing factors such as psychographics and demographics.