NEWS11 March 2010

‘No uniformity and no standards’ in STB viewing data

News North America

US— Set-top box (STB) data for TV audience measurement still lacks uniformity and standards, according to a study from Nielsen’s client think tank.

The study said that while “virtually every type of data that could be obtained from a set-top box is currently being obtained” by at least one company, no single firm is providing a full range of services.

“There is virtually no uniformity between aggregators in terms of data obtained or processing rules,” it said. “Everyone does it differently. There are no standards.”

All the companies surveyed that were using STB data were tracking channel changes, and some were also looking at use of other TV features such as muting, use of programme guides, video-on demand, polling tools and DVR playback.

The authors of the report noted that companies approached to take part in the study were initially reluctant to share information about their practices because of competitive pressures and “suspicion of motives”. “No one wanted to ‘go first’,” they wrote. But as assurances of confidentiality were secured, firms began to come on board and in the end 15 of the 30 companies approached agreed to provide information.

The bulk of the information used in the study came from companies that process data and sell research services, such as Nielsen, Rentrak and TNS. There was limited cooperation from firms that produce data-gathering software, and “too few responses” to provide even general information about the practices of the companies that actually own the data – predominantly cable and satellite providers.

The authors said more research is needed particularly in the area of how demographic information is used in conjunction with STB data, and how this might change in future.

The study, conducted by Tim Brooks, Stu Gray and Jim Dennison, is available in full online here.