NIELSEN SIGNS DEAL FOR VOD AUDIENCE TRACKING

New System Will Take Nine Months to Implement

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Nielsen Media Research has signed a deal for a new technology that will allow its people meters to track video-on-demand programming, according to the company.
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Audio signals
Nielsen's controversial computerized audience-measuring devices are used to replace the paper diaries that the company's media-sampling agents use to record what media they are being exposed to each day. The meters are set top devices that pick up special audio signals embedded in the TV programming. Inaudible to the human ear, these signals are "heard" by the meter, which documents exactly how long a person views specific programs. The system requires that content producers and TV companies embed the special audio signals in their programming.

However, for technical reasons, the VOD format could not be encoded in the same way as the signals of real-time broadcast or cable-TV transmissions.

But now, Nielsen's new deal with Sterling, Va.-software company Anystream will provide a means for also encoding that VOD programming, according to Scott Brown, Nielsen senior vice president for strategic relationships.

Encoding VOD content
Anystream's software is used to process video content into VOD as well as Internet content. It already provides various kinds of software support to media companies such as Fox News and CNN, which repurpose their broadcast content for digital platforms including the Web and mobile phones.

Nielsen believes the deal will help content providers, cable companies and distributors to apply VOD people meter audio codes to their content, which in turn will allow Nielsen to measure audiences more easily.

While the news will no doubt be welcomed by those pushing the development of VOD as an ad-supported medium, Nielsen has been widely criticized for its delay in implementing a full measurement system.

Nine months away
VOD measurement by Nielsen is still nine months away. Viewership of VOD programming within seven days of its initial airing will begin to be incorporated in Nielsen data by fourth quarter 2006. The company will only begin to measure theatrical movies, pay-per-view events and older TV programs by the fourth quarter 2006. That is not soon enough for the agencies and marketers who have been driven to consider VOD by the promise of targeting their customers more closely.

Nielsen isn’t the only company measuring VOD viewing. Comcast Corp. works with independent VOD measurement firm Rentrack, which has rapidly established itself as a player in the field. The cable companies themselves also hold precise data on what programming their customers watched, but have been reluctant to make that widely available. Agency executives say they expect to work with a patchwork of datapoints on VOD measurement in the future.

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