TiVo's first-of-a-kind service that offers up commercial ratings in local markets has launched in San Francisco, Orlando and Tucson.
The service could give stations access to the same ratings used for deal-making in the national TV marketplace, albeit with some limitations. So-called "C3" ratings (commercial ratings with three days of DVR viewing) aren't offered by Nielsen at the local level.
Advertisers, however, remain frustrated that deals are still being made based on "program ratings," even as DVR-enabled commercial-zapping proliferates.
The local TiVo service offers second-by-second, set-top-box data that can be converted into the "C3" figures. Data is gathered anonymously from TiVo subscribers using pools of 75,000 in San Francisco, 10,000 in Orlando and 5,000 in Tucson.
Still, there are some limitations. Unlike Nielsen ratings, the "Stop Watch Local Markets" TiVo offering does not provide details on viewer demographics. And it is culled from TiVo users only, which some argue offers a different profile than the population at large.
With that as a backdrop, it would seem improbable that buyers and sellers would use the local service as a ratings currency anytime soon. More likely, the data may be employed as a guidepost in planning negotiating strategy. (TiVo offers a similar national second-by-second service with 300,000 subscribers.)
Todd Juenger, who heads audience measurement for TiVo, said there was no overarching reason for selecting San Francisco, Orlando and Tucson as launch markets, although there is some diversity.
San Francisco is a top-10 DMA, while Tucson is still a Nielsen diary market. Juenger said Orlando has stations owned by four prominent groups -- Hearst, Cox, Fox Television and Post-Newsweek -- that might be interested in purchasing the data not just in the Florida market but for all DMAs they serve.
Juenger would not comment on whether any stations have purchased the data in any markets, including the initial three.
Should a station or agency request the data for a particular market, it would take TiVo four weeks to begin providing it, Juenger said. "We've done our best to talk to as many station ownership groups as we can," he noted about the sales process.
TiVo's offering promises time-shifted ratings for almost all DMAs, regardless of whether Nielsen measures one via a people meter or a diary. Like San Francisco, Orlando (the 19th-largest DMA) is a local-people-meter market.
Speaking on a call with investors Wednesday, TiVo CEO Tom Rogers said the "lack of electronic" measurement for "the overwhelming number of local TV markets is mind-boggling." Nielsen declined comment.
TiVo has been trying to use its millions of set-top boxes to turn the audience measurement area into a significant revenue stream. With no data on how DVRs impact commercial viewing at the local level, TiVo saw an opening.
The company is "not looking to dislodge" Nielsen, Rogers said, but to "fill all kinds of voids" in its slate of services.