Ratings company Nielsen Media Research is investing $2.5 million into research and development of new ratings technologies, products and services, including active and passive "People Meters."
It will ask a small group of clients to serve on a steering committee to direct the spending of that money.
The money will go toward a number of different areas, including Nielsen's ongoing efforts to improve its Local People Meters, which have come under heavy fire for low minority response rates and alleged undercounts.
Nielsen says it is already spending about $100 million in cash and resources to to roll out the Local People Meters.
Nielsen revealed the fund in a client letter Friday.
Also on the new tech front, it told clients it would not include DVR households in the National People Meter or Local People Meter samples until January 2006 to give it enough time to include all the data clients required, and that it would get back to them within 90 days on a plan for including VOD viewing.
Nielsen also says it is working on providing sub-minute ratings analysis, from 30-second and 15-second data down to, potentially, second-by-second as a way to gauge performance of commercials. It will have a research plan to clients in 90 days on that front as well, it promised Friday.
Nielsen critics, The Don't Count Us Out coalition, called the $2.5 million investment "too little, too late...Real reform and oversight is needed in the television ratings system," the coalition said. "Today's announcement demonstrates that Nielsen has accepted that, but they also need to accept that they are not the ones to do it."
In its letter to clients, Nielsen reiterated its commitment to the Media Ratings Council (MRC), an audit organization for a variety of ratings services, and said the money was allocated to give clients more input into Nielsen's R&D spending and "to reaffirm our commitment to the industry."
Nielsen has been working with the MRC to resolve the council's issue with the meters, which are currently operating in Boston, New York, Chicago, L.A., and San Francisco. Boston is currently the only market with full MRC accreditation.