Nielsen Eyes iPad Ratings

Tests of new measuring technologies promising, but actual ratings could be a year away 11/21/2011 12:01:00 AM Eastern

Nielsen is testing a promising new system
to measure viewing on iPads that will eventually
allow the numbers to be incorporated into
the combined multiplatform C3 ratings the research company
currently supplies for linear
TV, DVR, VOD and Web viewing.

The test, which has shown
generally positive results, is important
because both operators
and programmers would like to
capitalize on the growing popularity
of tablets by offering more
programming on iPads.

Until recently, attempts to measure
viewing on Apple’s mobile
devices has been hampered by
the company’s closed operating
system, which does not allow
more than one application to run
at the same time.

Nielsen is not discussing how
it has managed to overcome that
problem because the technology is still in development.
But the early results of a field test in an undisclosed market
seem promising. The solution is reading the watermarks
in the programming, which allows viewing to be
measured. Nielsen is in the process
of applying for a patent, says
Matt O’Grady, Nielsen executive
VP, media product leadership.

O’Grady stresses, however, that
overcoming the technical hurdles
is only step one in the process of
creating accurate ratings. Setting
up the actual panel so that it reflects true usage of these devices
“and getting the accrediting and
the acceptance from the MRC
[Media Ratings Council] and our
clients is a bigger task than the actual
technology,” he says. The iPad
effort is the first step in a broader
effort by Nielsen to begin measuring
more devices.

O’Grady declines to provide a speci! c timeline for
completion of the iPad project, but the process could
easily take a year given the complexities of developing
a reliable panel for a new, rapidly growing technology.

The most recent Nielsen figures suggest that tablets
are in more than 6% of all homes and that 5% of all
homes have an iPad. But research companies have provided
widely varying projections of how quickly tablet
sales will grow and the impact of lower-cost Android
tablets on Apple’s market share.

Nielsen settled on first targeting iPads because tablets
are an ideal platform for viewing long-form video, and
because Apple currently dominates the market.

But O’Grady stresses that they are closely monitoring
market trends for other devices, including Android tablets,
gaming consoles and smartphones, and will look
to develop ratings solutions for them as their use for TV
viewing becomes more widespread. “We are watching
the other devices as they evolve,” O’Grady says.

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