Invitation Only: Select Nielsen Clients To Meet On Plan To Integrate Online Viewing Into TV Ratings

Nielsen has invited a small group of its most influential clients to participate in a "special meeting" next week to discuss how it should handle the way it measures and reports viewing of conventional TV programming accessed via online media. The meeting, which will be Oct. 16th at the Harvard Club in New York, comes as Nielsen has already begun measuring online behavior in some households in its national TV ratings sample (MediaDailyNews Sept. 30th), and as Nielsen contemplates expanding that to its entire sample and formally integrating online viewing of TV programming into its official ratings currency.

The meeting, which is separate from a series of conventional national client meetings being held in New York and Los Angeles next week (MediaDailyNews Oct. 8th), was characterized by Nielsen executives has having the same importance a seminal meeting it held in the fall of 2006 to determine how to incorporate time-shifted viewing data into its national TV ratings currency. The outcome of that meeting culminated in the creation of the so-called C3 ratings that are currently used by advertisers and agencies to negotiate their national TV advertising buys.



"The purpose of this meeting is to discuss the work that Nielsen is doing to develop the capability to measure online video viewing in the national people meter panel and to share our thoughts on potentially aligning that effort with these industry developments. Most importantly, the purpose of this meeting is to get your feedback and input on these plans," Nielsen President-Media Client Services Sara Erichson wrote to approximately 75 clients invited to the meeting. She emphasized that the meeting was "invitation-only."

Nielsen currently is measuring online viewing of TV programming in nearly 400 households, and executives say that preliminary findings of that "live," in-panel test, as well as a so-called "convergence panel" that is independent of its national ratings currency sample, have shown no negative impact on compliance of response rates from households that are concurrently reporting both conventional TV and online TV viewing. They say that has encouraged Nielsen to think about expanding the concurrent TV/online measurement into Nielsen's entire 18,000 household TV meter sample, but are now at the point of seriously gauging clients on their sentiment about the implications of doing so.

It's unclear what if the meeting will also address TV viewing over other new and emerging platforms, such as the small, but rapidly growing mobile video segment, but Nielsen executives said they don't expect that to be a significant part of the conversation during this meeting. While Nielsen has a separate mobile measurement service, it has not yet begun integrating mobile viewing of TV programming into its TV ratings sample.

A couple of years ago, when it looked as if the popularity of video iPods and other hand-held video media devices might become a significant factor for the TV industry, Nielsen developed its so-called "solo" meter for measuring TV content viewed via iPods, but plans to integrate that technology have grown dormant, and the main focus now appears to be on online media, partly because online viewing of TV programming is growing rapidly, and partly because the TV industry - especially cable TV operators such as Comcast and Time Warner - have begun their own "TV Everywhere" and "OnDemand Online" initiatives to provide their subscribers with access to TV programming via the Internet.

Nielsen executives do not expect any explicit action to be taken during next week's meeting, and characterized it more as a fact-finding and temperature-taking session in which clients will brainstorm and share their concerns and goals about online viewing of television, and whether and how it should be integrated into the official TV ratings currency.

"It's not the kind of meeting that we will put out a press release that we made a decision," a Nielsen spokesman explained. "We're not going to take a vote, or make a decision based on unanimous agreement by proclamation." He said the goal is simply to understand what some of Nielsen's most influential clients - TV companies, agencies and advertisers - think about the issues.

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