NAB 2009: TiVo to Measure Local TV Consumption

Will provide DVR data for several markets this summer

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Las Vegas -- Digital-video-recorder supplier TiVo plans to begin this summer to provide anonymous, second-by-second ratings data for programs and commercials airing in local U.S. markets, which the company says will provide greater granularity than current ratings samples from Nielsen and other measurement firms.

The new "StopWatch Local Markets" service will only launch in a handful of markets--at least three, but no more than 10, says Todd Juenger, VP and general manager of TiVo audience research and measurement.

The company has already discussed the service with potential customers, including advertisers and station groups, which have been looking for greater accountability in measuring local content than the diary information typically used. But it has no deal for the service at this time.

"Even if we had demand for 50, we'd probably cap it at 10," says Juenger. "It's a lot of data to crunch."

TiVo says its samples for the local StopWatch product, which will pull data from a different pool of TiVo subscribers than its existing national StopWatch service, will range in size from 25,000 in the largest markets to 5,000 in the smallest markets. Juenger says that makes existing market-specific samples, which might range in size from 800 down to 400 households, pale in comparison.

"We believe it's a phenomenal opportunity for us," says Juenger. "Not only is the information today lacking, but we have enough subscribers in all the markets to get a big sample size. We've already built all the engines. All we have to do is draw from the local pool versus the national pool."

Other features of the new service, which will launch in time for the fall broadcast season, will include second-by-second anonymous audience measurement, which enables measurement of specific commercials; and live and timeshifted anonymous monitoring of DVR viewing behavior and commercial fast-forwarding. TiVo says its sample also covers all the way people consume TV, including digital cable, analog cable, satellite, over-the-air and telco providers. However, roughly half of TiVo's existing subscriber base is comprised of DirecTV subscribers, and the company doesn't include data from any cable customers running its software on third-party boxes, such as Comcast subscribers in the New England market.

Juenger says that TiVo has already gotten positive feedback on the idea from advertising agencies and local cable networks looking for better ratings information.

"There's a lot of important people and a lot of money that trades hands that's localized," says Juenger. "But I haven't talked to a single person yet who doesn't lament the state of existing local measurement. So the opportunity is ripe."