Nielsen has signed a deal with AT&T that will give it access to set-top box data to use in local and eventually national TV measurement.
The anonymized data from DirecTV and U-Verse set-top boxes will be combined with the traditional panels Nielsen has used to measure TV audiences in a bid to enhance its measurement of all viewing, whether it's live or recorded, delivered via traditional pay-TV services or streamed over the web.
The TV industry has been grappling with measuring the increasing number of viewers who are consuming content on demand and on a variety of platforms. Traditional ratings are mired in a continuing slump, driving up ad rates for the impressions that remain but reducing networks' reach.
Nielsen has been working to provide network and agency executives with a total picture of how many people are watching a piece of content no matter where they watch it. But its Total Content Ratings have been met with resistance from network executives, who contend they aren't ready for widespread use.
Linda Yaccarino, chairman-advertising sales and client partnerships at NBC Universal, said in December that the Total Content Ratings product so far "lacks the consistency and transparency the marketplace demands and expects from Nielsen."
Nielsen nonetheless plans to debut its TCR syndicated product in March.
"Nielsen is leveraging big data and its panel data to deliver comprehensive, reliable and in-depth measurement of how people consume content in today's changing media landscape," Megan Clarken president-product leadership at Nielsen, said in a statement. "We continue to innovate and leverage all types of data in order to enhance our local and eventually national audience measurement solutions. The inclusion of data from various providers supplements Nielsen's panel data by providing increased granularity and more robust insights broadening our total audience view."
Nielsen rival Rentrak, which was acquired by ComScore last year, has been using set-top box data to measure TV audiences.