Nielsen to use watermarks to enhance local channel rating accuracy

While we're watching our favorite shows in HD, it's easy to forget that they live and die by ratings, and those ratings aren't always collected with the latest technology. In an effort to improve the sample size and accuracy of ratings for local TV channels, Nielsen is starting to roll out a hybrid technology consisting of watermarks and return data from supporting pay-TV provider's set-top boxes, like DirecTV and Charter. The first three markets to get the upgrade are St. Louis, Dallas and Charlotte, with 17 yet to be announced markets to follow in 2013, and finally, the remaining 190 about two years after that. The system will work in parallel with the older Local People Meters and Diaries for three to six months and will lay the groundwork to collect ratings for online, tablets and other platforms. All the inside industry details and more are in the release after the break.

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Nielsen Reveals Plan for Next Generation Local Audience Ratings

Nielsen Local Audience Ratings Quadruple Sample Size in Metered Markets,
Double Sample Size in Diary Markets;
Build Foundation for Local Cross‐Platform Measurement

NEW YORK – July 20, 2012 – Nielsen, a leading provider of information and insights into what consumers watch and buy, today announced a comprehensive plan for upgrading its Nielsen Local Audience Ratings, the standard used by the Local Media advertising industry. Nielsen's next generation Local Audience Ratings will meet the key needs of its clients and the industry by dramatically increasing sample sizes and stability across all local markets.

Nielsen plans to increase the sample sizes by employing a hybrid measurement methodology combining Nielsen's existing panels, new proprietary measurement technology currently referred to as Nielsen Code Reader and complementary return path data (RPD), commonly obtained from set top box devices. Nielsen is evaluating the availability and viability of RPD data for the industry. These plans have been developed through an extensive client review process. Nielsen has presented its Local Audience Ratings plan to the Media Ratings Council (MRC) and is working closely with the MRC to meet the standards set by the industry.

"Our clients' priorities are clear: improved ratings stability and cross‐platform measurement," said Matt O'Grady, executive vice president and managing director of Local Media at Nielsen. "Nielsen will dramatically increase sample sizes while maintaining the critical principle of market representation. Additionally, Nielsen has developed market leading computer, tablet, and smartphone meters to capture all viewers, all consumers, all segments. This will be the foundation for cross‐platform measurement."

With a total of twenty introductory markets, Nielsen's plan will improve measurement in the Local People Meter (LPM), Set Meter, and Diary markets. Starting in Q4 2012, Nielsen Code Reader installation will begin in the following LPM markets: St. Louis, Dallas, and Charlotte. These markets will be followed by five Set Meter markets: Nashville, Greenville, Birmingham, Albuquerque, and New Orleans. Nielsen will announce the twelve introductory Diary markets shortly.

The Nielsen program will provide broadcast stations and local cable with more granular and stable data for both programming and ad sales and enable agencies and advertisers to operate more efficiently.

Specific client benefits of Nielsen's Local Audience Ratings include:
Quadrupling effective sample size in Local People Meter and Set Metered markets and doubling effective sample size in Diary markets resulting in a significant reduction in ratings variability and zero rated periods;
Maintaining a representative and projectable probability sample across all markets;
Continuous electronic measurement in all markets;
Improved measurement for long‐tail program sources.
Nielsen Local Audience Ratings will be enabled by the following investments:

New proprietary home TV measurement technology, including a breakthrough watermark‐enabled capture device, currently referred to as Nielsen Code Reader;
Unique hybrid approach utilizing Nielsen's Local People Meter and Set Meter panels and return path data from a variety of participating cable and satellite providers.
This initiative also lays the groundwork for local online, tablet and mobile cross‐platform measurement and integrated media/purchase analytics, as well as the transformation of the paper diary.

"With the local market becoming more fragmented, and the need for representative measurement still important, we fully support projectable increased sample sizes in local markets," said Brad Adgate, senior vice president and Director of Research at HORIZON MEDIA. "Nielsen's unique new metering technology, the code reader, shows true promise and will be a more reliable form of data collection than the current state of return path data, which has certain limitations in measuring viewers."

"We are encouraged that Nielsen has announced its hybrid measurement improvements that hold the promise of an enhanced service," said Jim Babb, executive vice president and chief operating officer for Bahakel Communications. "We believe that the substantial sample size increase anticipated will be a big improvement for stabilizing ratings. The new "code reader" combined with set‐top‐box return path data are a promising strategy for increasing sample sizes. We're pleased that Nielsen is taking the initiative both to improve its legacy TV ratings service while also investing in timely preparation for an emerging cross‐platform media environment ahead."

Preliminary data will become available for the twenty introductory markets in 2013, beginning with the LPM markets. All markets will have a parallel period of three to six
months to evaluate, comment, and prepare for the new ratings while using the existing service. Rollouts across the 190 remaining markets are expected to be completed within approximately two years from gaining client acceptance in the introductory markets. Nielsen will continue its extensive industry education and feedback gathering campaign, as client acceptance of these revised methodologies is critical to implementation.