February 15, 2007
Nielsen/DirecTV Deal to Give Nielsen More Valuable Data for Set Top Boxes

As Nielsen struggles to redefine itself to remain the center of the television industry, news came out yesterday that DirecTV had a valentine of its own for the measurement company: the satellite service provider will give Nielsen set top data from 300,000 DirecTV customers.

The move helps build Nielsen's increasing drive to move beyond its small traditional sample into a way to measure the way television is being consumed in an increasingly niche market and with new digital tools. This comes particularly alongside the plans for Nielsen Digital Plus, the service which will blend streams of data from Nielsen Media Resdearch, Nielsen Monitor Plus, A>C. Nielsen, Claritas, and Spectra and Bases into one service.

According to Jon Lafayette with TelevisionWeek, linked above, "The company expects to look at how set-top box data contributes to bringing electronic measurement of all local television markets, evaluating interactive advertising, quantifying advertising effectiveness and supporting customer relationship management for cable and satellite operators.

The press release includes a quote from Nielsen SVP Scott L. Brown, "who says, "The television industry is at the very beginning of understanding the uses and applications of expanding digital services. Nielsen is using our full resources to help clients create valuable new uses for their digital information."

Nielsen has been working overtime to try and deal with the various pressures on the company as it tries to maintain its status as the currency for the industry. It's always been somewhat accepted that Nielsen numbers, whether valid or not, had to remain at the center of the industry because it is the way advertising is structured.

Nevertheless, the increasing divisions in the television industry with products serving target niche audiences, while new categorizations based on categories other than race, gender, and socioeconomic status and bringing into question depth of involvement as opposed to number of viewers, has caused the company to continually reconceptualize how to measure that audience to remain as relevant as possible.

Look, for instance, at Project Apollo. Or measuring college viewers. Or commercial data. Or VOD measurement. This is all part of the company's eventual movement for "Anytime Anywhere Media Mangement," or A2/M2.

Has Nielsen done the work necessary to maintain its place at the center of the industry? How can the qualitative types of data that we increasingly write about, dealing with depth of engagement, be properly measured by the type of services Nielsen offers?