Nielsen To Add Internet Meters To Entire TV Ratings Sample: Timing, Integration TBD

Nielsen Co. has decided on a plan to install Internet meters alongside TV meters in its entire TV measurement panel over the next year, with the possibility of providing a so-called "single source" measurement of television programming viewed across the two media as soon as 2011. The timing of the plan, and a final decision to integrate the measurement of the two media, ultimately will be decided by Nielsen's clients, but the decision to begin a system-wide deployment of Internet meters in its entire TV meter sample was effectively decided Friday, following a "special" meeting with its most influential clients to brief them on the concept, and to gauge their interests and concerns.

"There was broad agreement on putting Internet meters in the TV sample, so we could have the ability to look at Internet viewing in the same homes we are measuring TV from," Sara Erichson, president-media client services at Nielsen told MediaDailyNews in an interview following Friday's special meeting, which included a mix of traditional TV research gurus from the major networks, cable operators and advertising agencies, as well as a mix of the digital media experts from the major TV organizations.

About 50 clients attended the meeting in person, and 30 listened in via a conference call, and Erichson said two key matters still need to be resolved, the timing of the rollout and of the Internet meters, and a decision on whether to integrate them into Nielsen's official ratings for television programming, but she said, "I think the feedback was strong enough that we will be able to report a single rating."

Erichson acknowledged that there was a diverse array of opinions on the timing, and the potential impact the rollout of Internet meters could have on Nielsen's TV ratings sample, but she said Nielsen already has been deploying them in a small, controlled subset of the national sample and that to date, there has been no negative impact on the quality of the TV measurement in those households.

Some TV researchers were initially concerned when Nielsen embarked on the so-called "live" test taking place within Nielsen's official TV currency panel, and feared that recruiting households to add Internet measurement alongside their TV measurement might influence their behavior, or lower their response rates for accurately reporting their TV viewing. But Nielsen says that has not occurred to date, and Erichson said Nielsen would continue to monitor that "very carefully" as it deploys Internet meters across its entire TV panel over the next year.

During the meeting, some clients expressed concerns that Nielsen's Internet meters, which are currently the basis of Nielsen Online's Internet measurements, have comparatively low response rates of about 25%, and that the software-based meters do not currently measure computers utilizing Apple's operating system. Erichson said Nielsen Online already has committed to introducing an Apple compatible version of its Internet meter in the next year, and that it would be utilized as part of the new TV panel integration plan.

Erichson characterized Friday's special meeting as "a lot less contentious" than the last special client meeting it held several years ago to resolve a plan to integrate time-shifted viewing from digital video recorders into its national TV ratings, which ultimately led to the creation of the so-called C3 ratings (live average minute TV commercial ratings plus three-days of recorded viewing) that is now the currency of the TV advertising marketplace, and she said that if everything goes as planned, the industry would simply add Nielsen's measurement of Internet viewing of TV programming to that metric after the Internet meters are fully deployed, vetted and agreed upon.

She said that decision would most likely be made in 2011.

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