Politics As Usual

Filling in for Dave Goetzl while he's on a much-deserved vacation this week, so let me tell you what's on my TV mind today. Firstly, I began the day with a pitch from KSL Media offering Jon Dobbin as an expert on what the 2012 Presidential election "will mean for broadcast, cable, online and other media." In addition to being KSL's resident political media guru, Dobbin is senior vice president-managing director, client services at the independent media services shop, and apparently, he's got some strong viewpoints on the implications the election will have on the battle among Fox News, CNN and CNBC - both philosophically and in terms of advertising market share.

Unfortunately, I'm still gearing up for the fall of 2011, so the fall of 2012, may have to wait until Goetzl's back on the beat. And for the moment, it looks like the TV business is politics as usual. Meaning, Nielsen continues to dominate the game. How do I know that? Because Nielsen just announced a deal likely to thwart the only significant competition it faces for its TV audience measurement dominance: digital set-top data. In a surprising announcement, Nielsen announced a deal licensing the digital set-top data from WPP's Kantar Media division. Actually, Kantar licenses that data from big set-top operators such as DirecTV, so I guess Nielsen is sub-licensing the data that Kantar licenses from operators.



That's a smart move for Nielsen, which I've heard has had a difficult time licensing such data directly, but I'm not sure why it's a good deal for Kantar, unless Nielsen is paying them gobs of money for it. But I've never really understood Kantar's long-term play here, and Nielsen and Kantar have had a long and frequently incestuous relationship, so maybe this is a prelude to something else? Why not. If Ipsos is in negotiations to acquire Synovate from Aegis, why wouldn't a newly public Nielsen go after WPP's research assets. But that's another story.

As for the set-top story, here's what Kantar Media Audiences North America President George Shababb had to say about it: "The integration of DirectView data with Nielsen's local market data marks an important milestone for return path data. The sample size and granularity made possible through return path data advances what audience measurement has traditionally been able to deliver and will help offer advertisers in local markets and improved service."

Aside from sounding like a Nielsen booster, Shababb's statement appears to be aimed most squarely at rival Rentrak, which has made the most significant inroads in terms of deploying set-top data as a proxy for Nielsen's local TV ratings services in local TV markets.

It could be that the deal is a win-win for Kantar, and a lose-lose for Rentrak, but I have a feeling it will be a winner-takes-all for Nielsen.

Stay tuned.

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