Is TiVo’s String of StopWatch Deals Making TV Measurable?

TiVo’s Audience Research and Measurement business was a bright spot in the DVR provider’s overall lackluster earnings last week. The addition of Carat and NBC Universal as subscribers to its second-by-second audience measurement data in recent days demonstrates continued momentum in a time when new subscriptions show signs of slowing. As a result, the firm whose name was once synonymous with the anticipated decline of mass TV advertising is now helping big advertisers measure their TV buys a little better.

“TiVo is in an interesting space, they are in a good position to understand time-shifting behavior,” said Sarah Fay, CEO of Carat and Isobar. Carat has representation on TiVo’s advisory board, and just last week subscribed to both its StopWatch and PowerWatch services.

“It’s really something that the industry has got to start understanding,” said Fay. “In a lot of ways, TV will start being monitored in the same way online is monitored when we buy spots online.”

Starcom was among the first agencies to subscribe to the company’s measurement service in January, followed by Interpublic, Media IQ, and Crispin Porter + Bugosky. The most recent agency to sign up, Carat, will subscribe to both services. Networks have been holdouts in the equation, though last week TiVo made a deal with NBC Universal to provide StopWatch data and create special advertising packages.

Discussing the firm’s relationship with NBC, TiVo VP of Corporate Development Naveen Shopra said, “Now the people on the other end of the equation want to make sure they have the same type of information about how advertising is being viewed and how traditional forms are affected in a DVR world.”

StopWatch lets subscribers drill down into advertising categories to look at various behaviors and conduct competitive analysis.

“It’s not just the fast forwarding button that gets us in trouble,” said Fay. “This really gives us a sense of how many people are predisposed to click away or fast forward commercials, and are there some commercials getting more attention.”

Agencies complain such data isn’t widely available through other services. Early on Nielsen made a move to track TiVo and DVR audiences, though for live broadcasts and time-shifted content, the research firm doesn’t match the granularity of TiVo’s data. It may only be a matter of time before Nielsen matches its competitor.

“TiVo is helping to nudge along Nielsen, because anybody who has ever tried to challenge Nielsen or come up as a competitor spurs Nielsen along,” said Lisa Quan, VP and director of audience analysis at Magna Global, a unit of Interpublic. /p>

TiVo’s audience certainly isn’t representative of the total television audience, nor is it necessarily representative of all DVR users. TiVo reports it has a combined 4.1 million subscribers, split between owners of a TiVo box and DirecTV users with licensed TiVo functionality. According to Bruce Leichtman, president and principal analyst at Leichtman Research Group, the TiVo audience represents about 15 percent of the 23.5 million homes with DVRs, and doesn’t necessarily represent typical DVR users.

Jen Soch, VP, activation director of advanced TV at Mediavest, said TiVo’s data “only helps us see what’s going on in the marketplace, in conjunction with Nielsen and other contracts we have in the marketplace.”

TNS Media Research provides second-by-second data gathered using set top box household panels it creates with the cooperation of MSOs (define) and satellite providers like Time Warner, Charter Communications, and DirecTV.

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