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March Madness Gets Huge Bounce From New Ratings Method

Cellphone Gadgetry Measures Elusive Out-of-Home Audience

By Published on .

NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- March Madness was always a big event, but out-of-home viewership has made it considerably bigger, with a heretofore untracked audience about a quarter the size of at-home viewers watching CBS's broadcasts of the game, according to Nielsen Media Research.
NCAA basketball tournament broadcasts on CBS showed substantial ratings gains when viewers in bars and restaurants are included
NCAA basketball tournament broadcasts on CBS showed substantial ratings gains when viewers in bars and restaurants are included Credit: AP

In the first data shared publicly from its new service for tracking out-of-home viewership, Nielsen, in a presentation at the Re:Think Advertising Research Foundation Convention in New York today, said last month's NCAA basketball tournament broadcasts on CBS showed substantial ratings gains when viewers in bars and restaurants are included.

Nielsen goes bar hopping
One first-round game last month, for example, showed ratings of 23% above Nielsen overnight ratings of 2.96 when out-of-home venues were included. The absolute ratings gains can be bigger still in the key demographic of men 18 to 34, with in-home ratings for another first-round game of 3.11 bolstered by another 0.69 points counting visitors in home and 0.76 points counting viewers in bars, restaurants and other non-home settings.

While Nielsen had previously announced plans for this month's national launch of the service, Brian Apter, VP-sales development-national TV client services, said today the company also hopes to begin offering local-market service and recruit Spanish-language panelists by the third quarter and press for out-of-home viewers to become part of the currency between media buyers and sellers.

Mr. Apter said he didn't know how quickly out-of-home viewers could attain currency status, but they'll be a welcome addition for TV networks, potentially helping to offset points lost by the adoption of the C3 commercial ratings standards last year. C3, a new ratings metric, measures how many people view commercial breaks live or within three days on a DVR.

"Obviously, March Madness is a major event with large out-of-home viewing," Mr. Apter noted, adding that other programming may not see as large a bump from full inclusion of out-of-home viewership.

Indeed, the out-of-home ratings could largely mean the rich getting richer, in terms of TV programming. Broadcasts of sports events, among the most watched programming out of home, haven't suffered as much of a ratings hit from DVR users, since the events are more often watched live, so commercials during the games are less often fast-forwarded.

New use for cellphones
The Nielsen service, developed in partnership with Integrated Media Measurement, uses specially equipped cellphones that capture audio signals from TV broadcasts among 2,500 panelists aged 13-54. Beacons plugged in at panelists' homes tell the devices when viewers are watching at home rather than away.

"I think it's important," said Don Gloeckler, manager of media research at Procter & Gamble, describing the out-of-home TV measurement. "We need to be understanding it more and more. They've always had out-of-home covered in terms of other people's houses, but it's interesting to see the data on other out-of-home viewing."

Publicis Groupe's Zenith Media USA became the first subscriber for the Nielsen out-of-home TV data last month. Nielsen and Integrated Media began collecting the data in September but are only rolling out the national service broadly this month.
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