TiVo this morning unveiled a new pricing strategy for its TV ratings service that is likely to get the attention -- and market share -- of the audience measurement community: free.
TiVo Research, the subsidiary of DVR hardware and services marketer TiVo Inc., announced it will be “giving away basic TV ratings data for free for anyone starting in the first quarter of 2016.”
The move -- which follows consolidation in the audience measurement industry with comScore’s merger with Rentrak, and Nielsen’s efforts to expand its traditional TV ratings dominance into digital -- is likely to put some pressure on those publicly traded companies.
TiVo described the offering as a “platform for open TV ratings,” and said it would include “aggregated, national, program-level ratings with basic demos” from a panel derived from more than 2.3 million households.
TiVo said the move is intended to refocus “industry energy on a more relevant measurement standard.”
The move comes as the television industry continues to wrestle with the shift from its historic sample-based measurement systems designed for a decidedly more analogue world, including push-button “people meters,” and paper and pencil diaries. Over the past decade, various attempts have been made to establish TV audience measurement services based on so-called digital set-top data reflecting users’ actual viewing behavior, including TiVo’s universe.
WPP’s Kantar, and TRA Analytics, a predecessor company acquired and integrated into TiVo Research, have gained various degrees of traction within the TV and advertising industries, and Nielsen also continues to experiment with set-top-based measurement -- but so far has been reluctant to deploy a product offering.
TiVo’s move to offer basic ratings for free is a tacit recognition of how difficult it has been to establish an industry standard for digital set-top ratings, and likely is intended to make a mark by selling enhanced analytics on top of the free version. Among other things, TiVo Research has data on the consumer behaviors of its TV ratings households.
"We will be giving this basic data away because we don't believe anyone should have to pay for this level of insight," TiVo Research Senior Vice President and General Manager Frank Foster said in a statement announcing the offering "Ratings are not where the focus needs to be. The focus needs to be on how you connect advertisers with audiences they really want to reach, with data that can ensure that, and metrics that can verify it. Those that are selling ratings data don't want the focus to be where the industry needs to be. Ratings are not the issue of the day. We want to focus on what matters much more and that's answering the real questions of how you target viewers more efficiently, at a time when all networks are facing ratings declines."
Foster asserted that the TV industry is losing traction with the ad community because of that, and cited recent declines in TV company revenues and stock values as a result.TiVo said the new free ratings platform will provide a dashboard to anyone who wants to access program-level aggregated ratings, coupled with basic age and sex demographics for same day and live-plus seven day ratings on a weekly basis.
A very interesting move by TiVo, though I doubt that audience data is as inconsequential as is claimed. Of course there's more to TV ratings than the number of eyeballs looking at a TV screen. Which raises a guestion, Joe. Do you happen to know whether they will release data only for broadcast TV network shows or will they also include cable and syndication? Also, I assume we're talking about average minute ratings but will these br commercial minute ratings or, more likely, all-content ratings with the ad zappers left in?