Media Insights Q&A With Nielsen's Manish Bhatia

Manish Bhatia, a member of Nielsen's Media Product Leadership team, is on the forefront of new Nielsen measurements. The media landscape is fragmenting and Nielsen is examining new ways to address this fragmentation, either through aggregating its television and Internet panels for cross platform or through set-top-box data.  

In his video interview, Manish talks about his career with Nielsen, the company's set-top-box data and cross-platform developments, innovations in television and the Internet, and offers some predictions for the next five years. Below is an excerpt; direct links to the interview can be found at

Charlene Weisler: Manish, in your opinion, what would you say the time line is for the adoption of set-top-box data? Do you think it could ever be part of the standard currency?



Manish Bhatia: Let me try to answer the second part of the question first. We think that the set-top-box data will play a critical role in audience measurement moving forward, which is why we've been working on this for a few years now -- and continue to actively look at ways to incorporate the data into the measurement systems that we have today.

We believe that it will extend the insights that our clients get in the marketplace today. Timing is a little bit difficult to predict right now, because there are a lot of things that need to happen, starting with the availability of the data.

Data is available in pocket right now. A big misnomer out there is that this is census data; it's actually not. Different cable systems have different capabilities. There is limited return path data available today. Even in satellite homes, they do require a phone connection to the box to pull the data back.

What we are getting back today is limited in terms of its footprint, its scope and even within the homes that are sending data back, there are TV sets where viewing is occurring but there is no return path coming.

There are some technical issues that the industry needs to address with set-top-box data to make it more complete, to make it more robust. But over time that will get addressed, as new technologies get rolled out by the MSOs.

Six months down the road, there will be more data -- and more robust data -- than exists today. Twelve months down the road, there will be more data and more robust data than exists today. So that is one [issue].

But the other one, also a big one, is privacy. Congress is looking at this issue very carefully, especially as it relates to the Internet, and just [having] a broad discussion on consumer privacy. A big unknown is how Congress might look at set-top-box data coming out in terms of ownership, and whether the consumers need to be opted in or out from the dataset. That is going to be a big determinant of how, if, and when set-top-box data can be used commercially in the marketplace for either audience measurement purposes or advertising purposes or so on.

There are [several things to consider]. One is the availability of the data itself, which again, as I said earlier, will keep improving over time. It's just a matter of time before we get to a point where there is enough clean data available. Privacy is a big one. The third one is the acceptance in the marketplace by the advertising clients and the value of the insights that can be created with set-top-box data. That becomes a commercial discussion.

But I think the big issue right now is privacy. Everyone seems to be rightfully focused on that, and it will probably drive the timing.

CW: Manish, where would you say the innovations in the industry are coming from today: Cable? Broadcast? Internet? Gaming? Print? Radio?

MB: Most people normally think of the Internet and mobile as some of the more innovative platforms today. And that is true. Broadband is growing in the U.S., online video seems to be growing by leaps and bounds with content that is available, the tools available to search for the content, and just overall usage of streaming content online. The growth of social networks is a big phenomenon online and that has opened up new opportunities and new challenges for marketers.

Mobile is unbelievably innovative and there is obviously a lot of talk out there that mobile will be the next pc or may become the next second screen at some point, with the applicability or usage of not just media but the overall things we can do with a mobile device. The mobile companies are rolling out faster and faster networks with 3G going to 4G going to 5G.

If you look at Asia, mobile is already much more advanced and is used very differently from the way it is in the U.S. from a media consumption perspective, not just from a traditional telecom perspective.

Innovations that are coming from online and mobile are well-known and documented. I believe there is a lot of innovation going on in the television industry also, because if you look at what TV was just 10 years ago and compared that to today, with high definition, DVRs, the dropping prices of television equipment, thin -screen and plasma TVs that you can buy and hang on your wall -- all have contributed to enriching the experience that people have with television....

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