Many TV industry research companies have pursued Comcast’s valuable set-top box data, from some 20 million homes, for years.
Third-party researchers like Nielsen and Rentrak have used set-top-box data from other cable companies and satellite providers for some time.
Now a report in the Wall Street Journal says Comcast is interested in licensing its set-top box data -- but not to third-party researchers. Instead, it is talking with ESPN, Turner Broadcasting and Discovery Communications. It already provides data to NBCUniversal, which is owned by Comcast.
Set-top box data has incredible scale -- and, in theory, precision — versus the traditionally much smaller panels that Nielsen, for example, uses to estimate TV viewing and other data.
But critics still complain set-top-box data is not representative of the total population, doesn't measure who in the room is watching (so it can’t provide age and sex breakdown), and it often can’t tell whether the TV set is on or off, and whether OTT services/platforms are in use.
So how valuable is that data now? Still, a lot. Reports say Comcast turned down a deal from Nielsen for $100 million.
It still isn't clear what Comcast’s long-term plans are with this research. Does it just want to to sell off raw data? Start a research company? Or perhaps also sell the data to third-party researchers at some future time?
Right now, it seems other TV networks would need to join in with ESPN, Turner and Discovery so that data could have broader use in the marketplace -- to sell national TV advertising, for example.
Critics believe piecemeal deals involving set-top-box data to third-party researchers and/or TV networks will complicate ultimate efforts for big-scale, national addressable advertising -- where the promise for TV advertisers is in targeting large groups of specific consumers, at the household level.
TV is still the major player. But increasingly, fragmented and/or declining audiences over the last several years have forced many ringing of alarm bells. All of which gives much smaller digital platform platforms big hope.
How much will set-top box data be worth in a couple of years? Won't it be less valuable then?