Nielsen Pairs with Cable Co on Set Top Box Data

In the first of what it hopes will be a series of collaborations with cable companies nationwide, Nielsen has struck a deal to access raw data about digital TV viewing from hundreds of thousands of homes.

The company will analyze the anonymous information to create reports for TV advertisers and programmers, said Nielsen spokesman Gary Holmes.

“This is the first time set top box data is being commercialized and sold,” he said.

The data will be supplied to Nielsen by Charter Communications, the country’s third largest publicly traded cable company. It will come from about 330,000 households in the Los Angeles area.

The only set top box data to be shared under the deal are the channels being watched and the duration the box stays on a particular channel. People often leave their cable boxes on after turning-off their television sets, so the set top box data alone cannot be considered a reliable indicator of station or program popularity, noted Holmes.

“You need a company like Nielsen to help figure out if a set is on or off,” he said. This is accomplished, by Nielsen, “through modeling and other rules.” When combined with information gleaned from its other panels, the Charter Communications data will give Nielsen “a more granular insight into TV viewing” that should be of interest to those in the business.

Charter’s SVP for advertising sales, Jed Meyer, said in a statement the deal with Nielsen reflects Charter’s commitment to “improving the precision of local market measurement” and will help the company’s advertisers and ad agencies “get the most reliable data possible to evaluate their media buys.”

Both companies pledged to protect the privacy of the households. They said all data supplied to Nielsen will be in anonymous form and all of Nielsen’s reports will contain only anonymous and aggregated data.

Holmes said the companies are not revealing financial details of the arrangement.

The effort is one of several announced recently involving efforts to get better measurement of television viewing habits. TiVo recently launched its PowerWatch Consumer Panel, a TV ad measurement initiative that provides advertisers with information about the demographics and ad-watching behavior of 20,000 households with TiVo digital video recording units. It has also signed numerous agency and TV network subscribers to its second-by-second audience research service, called StopWatch.

TiVo separately said yesterday it will provide YouTube videos directly to televisions.

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