The deal, which is the first in what ultimately is expected to be deployed as a new, ongoing syndicated cross-platform audience measurement service, was crafted by the Nielsen Co.'s fledgling NielsenConnect division, a new unit that has been charged with integrating disparate products, services and applications with the media and marketing research behemoth to create new products where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
The core components of the new, as-yet-unnamed Nielsen service, will include the first deployment of Nielsen's new TV/Internet Convergence Panel, a single-source panel of about 1,000 households that will simultaneously report their TV usage via Nielsen's television people meters, and their Internet usage via NetRatings' NetSite personal computer meter.
The new convergence panel will be built from a sample of new households being recruited to test the impact of Internet measurement on compliance with Nielsen's existing people meter ratings system, and from panelists retiring from Nielsen's national and local people meter services.
Nielsen insiders project the new syndicated service will launch in April 2008, and that the service will include both summary level data reports, as well as access to respondent level data for more detailed analysis.
Other components of the new service will include "links" with and "fusions" to the databases of other Nielsen video measurement platforms, including those being developed by Nielsen Mobile, a new mobile audience measurement service based on Nielsen's recent acquisition of Telephia.
Nielsen's deal with ESPN also includes other components designed to shed new insights specifically for the sports programming service and its advertisers. Among other things, ESPN's clients will have the ability to "link in" and study the impact various ESPN platforms have on their advertising.
The agreement calls for ESPN to receive data analyzing: 1) How TV promotions drive people to the Internet and vice versa; 2) The number of hours of TV and Internet usage per week, in total, and by time of day for any specific demographic or viewer type; 3) Simultaneous media usage across various combinations, such as viewing TV and streaming.
The timing of the research and when its findings might be released were not disclosed, but ESPN is expected to glean early insights into the unduplicated reach video content generates across conventional TV, online and mobile platforms, as well as a greater understanding of the overlaps that occur across platforms. The research will be analyzed via various demographic and TV market breaks.
Another component of the ESPN deal will link its TV and Internet measurement to the ESPN Sports Poll, a syndicated tracking survey of U.S. adults and teenagers that monitors general fan profiles, viewing habits, event attendance and sports industry trends. The process, known as a data "fusion," will enable ESPN to analyze TV viewing and Internet usage against specific variables from Sports Poll or a combination of variables, such as ESPN's ratings by program among NFL fans who visit NFL.com.
NielsenConnect, which was formed early this year by former MediaCom and WPP exec Jon Mandel, has been exploring other means of integrating Nielsen's myriad of marketing and media research services.