TiVo CEO: Industry Needs To Revamp Measurement

Tom Rogers

With a vested interest in set-top-box data becoming widely used, TiVo CEO Tom Rogers suggested Thursday that the TV business will suffer if Nielsen's panel-based method continues to yield the dominant currency. The Nielsen sample draws from too few homes and is less reliable than the return-path data culled from the boxes, he said at an Advertising Week event.

The industry is "at risk" if it proceeds with "much weaker data than, say, the Internet is able to provide ... I don't think (it) can go on much longer without that kind of precision and accountability," Rogers said.

Without mentioning Nielsen directly, he said potential trouble is not long off if there is a continued reliance on a "very small sample" that provides a "non-real view" of "what's going on out there."

For some time, TiVo has marketed a service providing data culled from a sample of about 375,000 homes that use its service. The second-by-second, return-path data is for both live and time-shifted viewing and is collected anonymously.



TiVo competes with set-top-box data providers Rentrak, Kantar and TRA with the service. One criticism is its data only comes from TiVo homes, which might not be representative of the population.

TiVo offers a separate service that attaches demographic information to viewing data. The 35,000-home database -- which is collected on an opt-in basis -- can break out viewing patterns by geography and other psychographics sought by advertisers.

Even with privacy concerns, Rogers said a large amount of TiVo users have been willing to share information and participate in that panel, allowing for some single-source metrics. One stream combines TV and Internet consumption.

"That's a huge opportunity and something we have found our TiVo base is quite willing to share with us," Rogers said.

Best known for its flagship DVR service, TiVo has had to refashion itself in recent years as cable operators have emphasized generic DVRs for their customers and focused on providing advanced TV services.

It hopes to use its data and other capabilities to work with advertisers on developing new inventory that proves effective whether viewed with a DVR or not.

"There has to be a commercial dynamic out there that is something different than to interrupt someone in the middle of their show," Rogers said.

Some of the TiVo data is startling. Rogers cited the irony that a show about advertising and watched by loads of people in the industry, AMC's "Mad Men," has close to 90% of viewers skipping the ads. So far in the broadcast season, he says, time-shifting for prime-time TV is up 3% to 69%.

Referencing TiVo's history and the allegations that it would kill advertising as we know it, Rogers said working with advertisers is now key.

"We were disruptive -- now we're trying to be unbelievably constructive," he said.

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