Nielsen recently announced that they had come to an agreement to incorporate set-top box (STB) data from Comcast into planned enhancements for its local market TV measurement beginning in 2018. The announcement is significant as Comcast is the country’s largest cable provider with more than 22 million subscribers. Nielsen was already working with STB data supplied by Dish Network, DirecTV, and Charter Communications. This is the most recent phase in a series of changes seeking to transform local TV audience measurement as we have known it. Nielsen’s goal has been to add some form of electronic measurement to all 210 TV markets, and to retire or replace the paper diary which has been a staple of TV audience measurement for decades. As 2017 ends, they are well on their way to achieving this lofty goal in 2018.
As a refresher, the initial upgrade began in January 2016 when Nielsen went live with its viewer assignment methodology for estimating demographic audiences in the 31 established set-meter markets and the introduction of fourteen new code-reader DMA markets. Add these markets to the twenty-five existing LPM markets and the number of DMAs with an electronic methodology for estimating demographic TV viewing grew to a total of seventy markets. While this accounted for 65% of TV households in the US, Nielsen was still missing 35% of US TV households in those remaining 140 non-metered DMAs.
Nielsen had announced that it would combine Return Path Data from cable/satellite set-top boxes with its ‘gold-standard’ random sample of demographic meters to produce local TV audience estimates in all 210 DMAs by the end of 2018. Comcast is now the fourth major cable or satellite provider that will integrate its Return Path Data with Nielsen’s local samples. In addition to the Return Path Data initiative, Nielsen will install an additional 15,000 TV audience meters as well as incorporate its audio division’s PPM (Portable People Meter) devices to augment in-home TV viewing and introduce out-of-home television viewing.
Megan Clarken, Global President of Watch at Nielsen, said, “Our enhanced TV measurement strategy combines the best elements from Nielsen’s high-quality panels with set-top box data from Comcast and other providers in an anonymous way.”
Harmelin Media Vice President and Director of Research, Bernie Shimkus, sits on Nielsen’s Local Policy and Guidelines Committee which was instrumental in steering the development of these far-reaching changes.