TNS Media Research, the dominant media research firm in Europe, is the latest company to make a run at Nielsen’s monopoly on the U.S. TV ratings business.
Nielsen’s ratings hold the key to $70 billion in TV advertising. Everyone complains about them, but so far no one’s been able to offer real competition. TNS’s plan: Work with satellite TV service DirecTV to cull data from from 100,000 set-tops.
At first blush that sounds more impressive than Nielsen’s panel of 14,000 households, but access to DirectTV data alone won’t be enough for TNS to displace Nielsen. That’s because Nielsen’s sample is supposed to be culled from the entire country, while TNS is just getting a slice of DirectTV’s 16.6 million subscribers, who skew rural and are concentrated in areas where cable service is weak.
Still, advertisers will be eager to see the data, especially if it shows a significant discrepancy with the Nielsen numbers. They’re already eager to work with TiVo, who is now selling its own ratings service based a slice of its modest subscriber base.
Expect more rivals to come, as digital TV delivery makes it easier and easier to track precise viewing habits. Rentrak, is developing its own ratings service, based on a sample of 500,000 cable set-tops, that will start selling directly to cable operators later this year. And it will be interesting to see if Google can penetrate this field in any significant way. Google TV has a deal with Echostar to sell Dish Network inventory (12,000 subscribers), and has access to set-top data.
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