ESPN, Nielsen Collaborate to Provide Cross-Platform Insights

ESPN and Nielsen are collaborating on methods to measure the way people use content and view advertising over different media including TV, the Internet, and mobile devices.

The companies said the initiative involves the first deployment of Nielsen’s new “TV/Internet Convergence Panel,” a group of sample households being assembled by Nielsen to track home use of TV and Internet. To further measure cross-media use, the project will link data from Nielsen Mobile and other measurement sources.

By working with a big, multimedia content publisher like ESPN, Nielsen gets a chance to show other publishers how its new measurement methodology works.

The new cross-media measurement model will give buyers and sellers of TV advertising a clear grasp of the way digital platforms interact with television, said Manish Bhatia, Nielsen Online’s president of global services. Citing Interactive Advertising Bureau figures, he pointed out Internet advertising expenditures totaled $10 billion for the first half of 2007.

“A lot of companies advertise across multiple media platforms and one of first things they look at is how much to spend on the Internet versus print versus TV. To do that they need to understand the different attributes that each media offers and the overlap between the media,” he said.

For example, ESPN hopes to gain insight into the impact TV promotions have on getting people to visit Web sites and about the success of Internet promotions intended to do the opposite, Bhatia said. Data is expected to be compiled that will reveal the amount of time spent weekly on TV and the Internet. Information will be broken down by time of day for specific demographic or viewer types.

Also to be measured will be “simultaneous media usage across various combinations, such as viewing TV and streaming,” according to Nielsen and ESPN.

ESPN will analyze the reach of its television programming, content on ESPN.com and video it distributes for mobile viewing. It will also find out more about the number of people who use various combinations of the three platforms and about demographic and market compositions of various audience combinations.

“We’re doing this because of the necessity for us to seek out the most reliable method of measuring cross-media and the first step is to gain the most effective insights into how different media are being used by same individuals or the same households,” said ESPN Vice-President of Research Artie Bulgrin.

He said that, while there have been tests using portable meters that attempted to measure cross-media use, “nothing has proven reliable enough and without bias enough to be used as a currency.”

Participants’ TV viewing habits will be measured by Nielsen’s “People Meters” while Internet usage will be documented by the Nielsen//NetRatings Internet metering technology. Also being brought into the fold will be Nielsen’s “Telephia” service, which measures mobile Web and mobile video use.

Additionally, Nielsen plans to link its TV and Internet measurement to the ESPN Sports Poll, described as “a syndicated tracking survey of U.S. adults and teenagers that monitors general fan profiles, viewing habits, event attendance, and sports industry trends.” Data from the link will enable analysis of TV and Internet use against variables from Sports Poll or a combination of variables.

“We’ll be able to say, `Here’s your audience on television, here’s your audience on Internet, and here’s your audience on mobile,’” said Bhatia. “All that information’s been available for awhile. The next step is to connect the dots between the three. Right now they know the total sizes of audiences across both but what they don’t know is the duplication and overlap.”

He said ESPN is perfect for the project because it’s “everywhere” in terms of being multimedia.

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