Research Executives Intrigued by Canoe Possibilities
"That mine shaft is going to be drilled," said Rentrak's chief researcher Bruce Goerlich at an Advertising Research Foundation event. "The gold is going to come out."
Canoe has access to data from 60 million set-top boxes deployed by the six largest cable operators. The boxes can provide granular data on viewing patterns, including how DVRs are used to skip commercials.
But there is also the potential for insight into both how VOD is consumed and the most effective uses of interactive television. And, perhaps most importantly for the researchers, the impact of viewing on consumer-purchasing patterns -- something they are looking to get a handle on for networks and advertisers.
Rentrak and others such as TNS Media Research and Nielsen currently acquire set-top-box data from the likes of cable operator Charter, DirecTV and telco TV provider AT&T. But none of those operate anywhere near the mass of set-top boxes that Canoe will be able to derive data from and that the researchers hunger to gain access to.
"We should stay tuned ... I really feel positive about Canoe," said George Shababb, president of TNS, at the ARF conference.
Manish Bhatia, Nielsen president of advanced digital services, also endorsed the possibilities the Canoe data could bring.
Rentrak, TNS, Nielsen and others use set-top box data to perform custom analyses for the programmers and advertisers -- which can stretch beyond whether shorter pods increase commercial tune-in and into ROI. One example is TRA, which attempts to gauge whether ads that consumers watch actually lead them to make purchases -- what's known as a "single-source" metric.
Research firms are aiming to develop new currencies for networks and advertisers to conduct business with -- supplementing or maybe replacing the age-old Nielsen panels in some instances. TRA president Bill Harvey indicated the company's data will be used as a currency for some deals in this year's upfront.
Goerlich said Rentrak also plans on moving into the "single-source" business. But he declined in an interview to provide details. It currently has access to 10 million set-top boxes operated by Dish Network, AT&T and Charter Communications that provide it with second-by-second data.
But it is unclear what Rentrak will use to complement the ratings to follow through on whether purchases are made. There are a range of possibilities including consumer panels, surveys or something arguably more concrete such as data from frequent-shopping cards that TRA uses.
Goerlich said "we will be working with a variety of sources ... anybody who's a serious player in this space will be."
Shababb, Bhatia and Harvey joined Goerlich on a panel about set-top-box opportunities at the ARF event.
To be sure, it is unclear how Canoe will use its data mine. Its CEO David Verklin has given no public indication how and when the company will release and employ the data.
A Canoe spokeswoman said Wednesday that no decisions have been reached.
It could opt not to work with a firm such as a Rentrak or TNS and keep it "in-house" -- although this is unlikely -- building its own research analyses business. There are also possibilities in using the data itself to generate greater ad sales for the six cable operators that own Canoe.
From a practical standpoint, Shababb said that in the cable space Canoe offers a turnkey opportunity to acquire set-top-box data, without having to make deals piecemeal with Charter and other operators individually. But he said researchers can't rely on Canoe alone for analytics.
To offer a truer reflection of viewing behavior, accessing set-top-box data from satellite and telco TV operators as well is crucial.