Major screen networks to get Nielsen ratings

April 24, 2008 by Dave Haynes

A big development out of that one-day industry conference in New York yesterday – word that measurement giant Nielsen is going to start distributing ratings reports on some of the larger place-based video networks in the US.

Reports MediaPost (which organized the event):

In a move that could bring the kind of structure to the burgeoning out-of-home video advertising marketplace that is associated with traditional television, Nielsen plans to introduce TV ratings “pocketpieces” for a variety of place-based television networks. The plan, which was revealed by Senior Vice President-Nielsen Strategic Media Research Paul Lindstrom, came out as part of a panel discussion on Wednesday during MediaPost’s Digital Out-of-Home Forum in New York.

Lindstrom said the first of the pocketpieces–one for health club video network IdeaCast–would be released in the next “two to three weeks,” and that another for Gas Station TV would follow shortly after. By September, he said Nielsen would be publishing pocketpieces for as many as 10 place-based television networks.

Pocketpieces is a term used to describe printed TV ratings reports issued by Nielsen that are designed to fit in someone’s vest pocket. Traditional TV networks and stations usually have them published weekly, but Lindstrom told MediaDailyNews that the place-based TV network reports would likely be published monthly due to the fact that their audience dynamics generally change less frequently than for traditional broadcast and cable TV outlets.

Most media planners, buyers and researchers now get their TV ratings data from Nielsen electronically, but the publication of pocketpieces is a symbolic development for the out-of-home video marketplace, implying that it now has comparable market currency data to television.

Unlike television and online–where Nielsen manages big consumer panels to measure those media’s audience estimates–Lindstrom said the place-based media network reports would reply primarily on compiling and modeling third-party data, such as membership data from health clubs, or transaction data at retail outlets of gas station pumps. He said this would be coupled with primary Nielsen research conducted by telephone that would ascribe demographics and other important information to the gross audience estimates. The method is similar to what Nielsen has been utilizing for the cinema advertising industry for several years, and the advent of Nielsen pocketpieces has helped that medium grow its share of advertising budgets.

Market analysts estimate that cinema currently accounts for about half of all out-of-home video advertising–an industry that is projected to take in an estimated $1.7 billion in advertising this year, according to Magna Global Director of Industry Analysis Brian Wieser.

Perhaps the most important aspect of the new pocketpieces will be Nielsen’s imprimatur, a stamp of approval that would provide legitimacy and authenticity for place-based networks calling on advertisers and agencies.

The article includes a concession that this system will hardly be perfect, though that can easily be said about measurement for most if not all conventional media. The methodology still involves gross audience estimates that, at best, come up with an opportunity to view number.

My guess is most network operators would welcome the Nielsen legitimacy stamp for their networks, and really don’t want to get any deeper (using stuff like face-tracking cameras and software) to reveal how much of that gross audience is actually looking at the screens for a measurable period.

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