Nielsen said the service would be available to clients as a stand-alone offering, and it intends to deliver local out-of-home measurement in Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami and New York. For its national sample, the company is using 3,000 participants from the panel for its local service plus an additional 1,700 national panelists to provide a greater representation of the rest of the U.S.
Monitoring so-called out-of-home viewing has become more crucial to media outlets, particularly as they come under pressure to provide more direct correlation to advertisers that the ads running alongside their colorful programs prompt purchasing behavior and brand recall. For some media outlets, such as NBC Universal's CNBC, the effort could have a salubrious effect: The business-news network has long claimed it doesn't get credit for its audience, who watch its programs on trading floors and places of business.
"There are meaningful additions to the networks' audiences that we're looking at here," said Sara Erichson, exec VP-media client services, for Nielsen. "For years, everyone has known that some amount of out-of-home viewing takes place."
Nielsen is working with IMMI, a Santa Monica, Calif., concern that provides panel members with a mobile phone, asking them to carry it with them wherever they go. The phone is equipped with a technology that creates "digital signatures" of all the audio media -- TV, radio and movies -- to which it is exposed.
Nielsen is launching the service with two charter clients: Walt Disney's ESPN and Publicis Groupe's Zenith Media. "Out-of-home delivery is a critical part of ESPN delivery, encompassing usage on campuses, in hotels, at work as well as bars and restaurants," Glenn Enoch, VP-integrated media research, ESPN, said in a statement. "In a mobile society, viewership isn't just about people sitting in the living room gathered around the set," said Wendy Marquardt, president, Zenith Media U.S.
The company released some initial findings. In the month of July, Fox's "House" and ESPN's "Home Run Derby" generated the most out-of-home viewing among prime-time broadcast and cable, respectively, with both attracting 570,000 out-of-home viewers. Among a group of highly rated special events/sports programs from June 30 to Aug. 10, the program with the highest number of out-of-home viewers was the Olympics Opening Ceremony on NBC, with 1.1 million viewers.
Just making the data available may not be enough for some advertisers. A viewer in a bar or an office may have very different characteristics than one in a more traditional living-room setting. No doubt, releasing the data is just one more step in an ongoing effort to measure viewers of TV programming across multiple venues.