Commentary

Comcast and thePlatform to Preserve Nielsen Ad Tracking Online

TV computer

"TV Everywhere" publishers will be able to track consumer ad viewing across broadcast, VOD, DVR and now online, according to Comcast Media Center, thePlatform and Nielsen. The three companies have announced that the Nielsen C3 ratings, which measure the average commercial minutes viewers watched live or over the three following days of a broadcast, will now extend to online publishing by TV providers.

The audio watermark Nielsen currently uses to track ad viewing among its panel households will be preserved as customers upload their broadcast assets into thePlatform's content management system. On the backend, Nielsen will aggregate the data from a program viewed across broadcast, VOD, DVR and online to render a single rating at the end of the three-day period. Media buyers rely on C3 ratings to negotiate TV ad rates. The new technology could help accelerate the "TV Everywhere" model, which redistributes cable, telco, and satellite video to the Web and other devices.

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According to the recent blog post at thePlatform's Web site, the Comcast Media Center will be able to ingest live broadcast content, including the show and attached ads. The material, including the embedded C3 audio watermark, is encoded into Flash and uploaded to the TV provider's account for redistribution. When the C3-tagged video is played back by a subscriber to the relevant service provider on a PC in a panelist's household, the data is recorded and aggregated with the other platforms to produce a single metric for the ad viewing on the program.

As the major cable, fiber, and satellite companies explore the TV Everywhere concept of serving customers across platforms, the addition of C3 ratings seems to expand their monetization options. Of course, it is still questionable whether the standard TV ad pods will themselves translate effectively to the online experience.

Certainly this gives media owners a more accurate picture of ad reach with which to negotiate with buyers, and it should give some broadcaster more confidence in pushing their on-air content to online platforms. Of course, like VOD and DVRs before it, the prospect of integrating online ad viewing with the other platforms also raises the questions of how the market values these ad views. Unlike the live and other recorded platforms, TV on the Web exists in a multi-windowed, multi-tasking environment. VOD and DVR viewing of a TV show may be considered merely "time-shifted," but the Web also constitutes a context-shift. What will the market make of that?

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