In a move that will diversify it more aggressively into consumer research and analytics, TiVo has acquired TRA, a television audience researcher that currently has the purest “single-source” offering in the U.S. marketplace, MediaDailyNews has learned. The deal, which could be announced as soon as today, would give TRA the deep pockets of cash-rich TiVo to compete with much bigger and well-established research companies such as Nielsen, Rentrak and WPP-owned Kantar.
While all of the major TV audience research suppliers are trying to integrate consumer purchasing data with TV audience estimates, TRA’s model currently is the closest to the kind of pure-play “single-source” vision that Madison Avenue has long hailed as its Holy Grail for measuring the effectiveness of advertising and media buys. In a true single-source panel, the same households being measured for media exposure also report their product purchasing behavior, enabling advertisers and agencies to correlate how ads contributed to their decisions to buy a product.
The history of single-source measurement is filled with the corpses of now-defunct enterprises that lost millions of dollars and failed to attract enough paying customers to turn them into sustainable businesses, including Arbitron’s notorious ScanAmerica system in the 1990s, and more recently, Arbitron’s and Nielsen’s Project Apollo. After Apollo was shut down, Nielsen developed a more economical and pragmatic solution, creating Nielsen Catalina Solutions, a joint-venture with Catalina Marketing that integrates its household data with Nielsen’s TV audience estimates.
While terms of TiVo’s acquisition of TRA could not be discerned at presstime, TRA is believed to have been struggling with cash flow, and TiVo is a big publicly traded company that has received a bounty of cash from some patent suits, and it already has a foothold in the audience measurement business with its StopWatch service. TiVo has been a long-term data partner of TRA’s, and has been supplying it with anonymous viewing data from TiVo households since 2008.
TRA’s investors to date include WPP’s Kantar unit, Arbitron, Intel Capital and Kodiak Ventures Partners.