TiVo announced today it will expand its StopWatch ratings service to encompass the habits of 100,000 subscribers. The decision spotlights the increased need to measure even the smallest, most niche media outlets, which -- thanks to the growth of the web and digital cable -- are becoming a more integral part of many advertisers' media plans. The increased sample size will allow TiVo to produce stable ratings measurements across lower-viewership cable networks Nielsen doesn't measure. Those include Sprout, Noggin, Planet Green, Sleuth and Hallmark, TiVo said.
Smaller cable channels "have real audiences, and to me it's absurd that they don't have ratings. If they're getting a 0.1 rating or whatever, and sometimes it's smaller than that, that's generally 100,000 people," said Todd Jeunger, VP-general manager, TiVo Audience Research and Measurement. "That's bigger than a lot of websites," he added. TiVo's StopWatch service measures second-by-second viewership and monitors both live and time-shifted viewing.
Measurement of niche cable outlets has gotten more scrutiny in recent months. Typically, Nielsen won't measure these cable channels until they are more broadly distributed. But signs have emerged in recent months that advertisers want better data despite the channels' limited reach.
In March, Publicis Groupe's Starcom media agency said it would not negotiate upfront deals with networks too small to make it into national ratings data and those that could not offer a "dimension of quantitative metrics data." The ad-buying firm has been testing second-by-second data available from set-top boxes and has been making use of TNS set-top-box data taken from a Charter Communications subscriber base in Los Angeles.
TiVo's broadening maneuver and Starcom's stance from earlier this year demonstrate how new technology is bringing more scrutiny to the effectiveness of TV advertising. When marketers relied on three broadcast networks to run the bulk of their advertising, getting measures of the masses who were watching was quite sufficient. Now, with hundreds of cable and digital options available, smaller audiences are flocking to each, and advertisers want more-granular measures of how they act, not just whether they watched a specific show or channel.