The panel "Audience Measurement" saw a clear divide among pundits as to how valuable data mined from viewers' set-top boxes currently is. Most bullish on the so-called "return path" viewer intelligence was Rentrak CEO Bill Livek, whose firm assembles viewing research stemming from some 17 million set-top boxes.
"I think the future is today," said Livek, pointing out the value of integrating advertiser databases with the viewing data.
Other panelists were not so sold on the concept. Comcast Spotlight VP of Data Development Bob Ivins said TV outfits would still need traditional viewer measurement, such as Nielsen's, while the set-top methodology is being refined. GroupM Managing Partner Lyle Schwartz said he wasn't confident enough in the cable box data to make major client ad buys based on it. "There's a whole lot of work still to be done," he said.
Moderated by B&C Business Editor Jon Lafayette, the panel--which also included Nielsen EVP Matt O'Grady--also touched on privacy issues stemming from set-top measurement, the challenge of measuring viewing on gaming consoles, and the overall challenge of measuring consumption across multiple platforms.
MTV Networks EVP Colleen Fahey Rush believed set top measurement was effective in the local markets, but not yet on a national scale. "I think it's a long way away when we have all the tools we need," she said, "but there is momentum in 2010 and 2011."