Nielsen Throws Some Watermarking On Its VOD Measurement Plan

In a move that offers new evidence that Nielsen Media Research's so-called "active/passive" TV ratings meters aren't nearly as passive as it had initially indicated, Nielsen Wednesday said it would offer a new "watermarking" technology to programmers to make sure it can measure shows viewed on video-on-demand (VOD) TV platforms.

Earlier this year, Nielsen began deploying the new A/P meters, which it has been developing for years, and which it said would enable it to measure viewing done on a variety of digital TV platforms, including VOD and digital video recorders (DVR). Nielsen plans to begin reporting DVR ratings in January. In May, it announced it would incorporate VOD usage into its national and local metered market ratings beginning the second quarter of 2006.

According to that plan, Nielsen said it would credit viewing to programs watched via VOD within seven days of their original telecast. By the fourth quarter of 2006, Nielsen said it would begin reporting VOD ratings for theatrical movies, pay-per-view events, and older TV shows offered on-demand, or so-called "library content."



As part of that announcement, Nielsen said it would require programmers to actively code their shows, or they would not be measured in Nielsen's ratings. That was the first public indication that the passive component of Nielsen's A/P meters may not be up to snuff, at least not as far as VOD programming is concerned. On Wednesday, Nielsen announced a deal with Anystream, a developer of software for "meta tagging" VOD programming content. Nielsen it would offer VOD programmers software to encode their shows during their content production process.

Aside from revealing another potential chink in the armor of what was supposed to be a bulletproof digital TV measurement system, the deal represents an important development for VOD advertisers, ensuring that the on-demand programs they run in will be accurately measured, albeit through an active coding method.

Nielsen is not the only player developing so-called digital watermarking technologies. Medialink, a company known for distributing video news releases and other public relations materials, this week restructured its Teletrax division, a unit that has been deploying digital watermarking to TV producers and programmers worldwide. This week it named J. Graeme McWhirter CEO of the unit and promoted Andy Nobbs president of Teletrax from managing director.

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