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TNS To Pull Cable Set-Top Data Through Rovi

TNS Media Research will work with Rovi to compile TV viewing metrics from cable set-top boxes running Rovi's interactive program guide, with the participation of individual cable systems.

Under the terms of the agreement, the two companies also will work together to provide audience-measurement and IPG usage data to cable systems and advertisers. TNS Media Research and Rovi said the partnership will measure consumer viewing across live, recorded and on-demand TV programming.

Rovi, which officially changed its name from Macrovision Solutions last month, offers the i-Guide IPG, developed through a joint venture with Comcast. The i-Guide is deployed across about 6.5 million set-top boxes in systems operated by Time Warner Cable, Charter Communications, Insight Communications, Mediacom Communications, Bresnan Communications and others. (Comcast uses i-Guide widely as well, but sells its own ads for the guide.) Rovi also offers another IPG, Passport, which is used in approximately 3.9 million U.S. homes.

Scott Rosenberg, Rovi's vice president of advanced advertising, said the company already has permission from some MSOs to collect set-top data -- representing five of the top 25 media markets nationwide -- but he declined to identify them or say how many households that currently represents.

TNS Media Research president George Shababb said his company will develop reporting capability with Rovi's set-top metrics through the end of the year with the goal of offering the data to customers early in the first quarter of 2010. The firm currently offers research products based on set-top data collected from DirecTV and Charter Communications' Los Angeles system.

"In order for the data to be accepted and endorsed by the industry, you need a trusted third-party source," Shababb said.

Set-top data has been touted as providing a level of granularity and breadth into TV viewing that is unavailable with Nielsen's ratings, which are compiled using a sample of fewer than 20,000 homes. Nielsen and others point out, however, that set-top data has several limitations, such as the difficulty of determining whether someone is watching TV even if the set-top is tuned to a specific channel.

Rovi, for its part, hopes the partnership with TNS will provide additional data points demonstrating that IPGs provide advertisers with a highly engaged audience. According to the company, 74% of households that use Rovi IPGs use the guide as soon as they turn on their TV.

"If you're a cable network, you've very interested in how people are tuning into their shows," Rosenberg said. "We know definitively from the set-top data that the IPG plays a key role in that behavior. Consumers are spending more than one hour per week in the guide."

The companies noted that data is reported on an anonymous, aggregated basis that does not contain personally identifiable information.