Nielsen Tracks TV Content on the Web through Digital Watermarks

Though a partnership with Digimarc, Nielsen will use digital watermarking and fingerprinting in online content to provide reporting, and tracking on copyrighted materials. The digital watermarking service is called Nielsen Digital Media Manager.

In addition to tracking for copyright security and compliance, the watermark allows clients to realize the value of their digital content, promote the expansion of Internet-distirbuted media, and facilitate a number of revenue streams. Those include ad-pairing, e-commerce, royalty reporting. Nielsen plans to start by tracking TV content online, but expects to expand to other online content categories and media types.

“We started with TV because we already do the necessary encoding – or watermarking – when we measure TV ratings. The last thing a video stream sees before it leaves a TV station is a Nielsen encoder that puts a digital code on the programming that our home meters can read. That same code can be used to measure TV programming when it is posted on the Internet,” said Nielsen company spokesperson Gary Holmes.

News of the Digital Media Manager offering was broken earlier today by The Wall Street Journal (link, subscription required). However the article focused more on piracy prevention than content measurement. The article accuses Nielsen of being late to the game and “in some ways at a disadvantage to its rivals.” Though digital watermarks are widely used for copyright protection on digital media, the tracking and ad-pairing components are not a standard feature.

“There are a lot of smaller companies that would like to deliver tracking services but none of them have the system in place to encode all TV programming,” said Holmes. “That is why Nielsen is so well-positioned to break the logjam between the content providers and the distributors. Content providers have been reluctant to allow their content to appear on Web sites because they would lose control over it. This new service would give them control and make them more likely to agree to posting on the Web.”

On Nielsen’s radar for the Digital Media Manager product are media companies, social networks, peer-to-peer services, and user-generated content sites.

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