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Video software

Mining for Set-Top Data

8:30 AM -- Rovi Corp. and TNS Media Research have struck an alliance that aims to measure how consumers use interactive program guides (IPGs) and the ads that reside in some of those guides, with the expressed hope that what they discover will lead to better video navigation systems. Although the idea of recording and analyzing user set-top "clickstream" data isn't exactly new (for example, it's not rocket science to determine which channels viewers are watching and how often they tune away during commercials), Rovi and TNS intend to take things several steps further by analyzing much more detailed viewing behavior. They'll attempt to put more context around those measurements and determine how viewers navigate the IPG and how they respond to interactive advertising. The role the IPG plays in influencing what viewers choose to watch has not been analyzed at such a detailed level, claims Scott Rosenberg, Rovi's VP of advanced advertising. "If you're an MSO, you want to know why [customers] choose or don't choose to watch VoD," he says. The benefit to Rovi (formerly Macrovision) is fairly obvious. Its IPG tech is "active" in more than 50 million homes globally and 25 million in North America, and Rovi sells ads that get placed into some of those environments. It's also the minority stakeholder in the GuideWorks LLC joint venture with Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK). TNS, meanwhile, specializes in providing TV audience and ad measurement tools "derived from second-by-second return path data." (See Macrovision Resets as 'Rovi'.) But Rovi and TNS aren't about to start collecting all this data on their own; they'll only be doing it in conjunction with MSOs and other partners. Rovi isn't saying which cable operators are on board with the program, but Rosenberg expects the TNS hookup to produce its first reports by January 2010. Comcast, DirecTV Group Inc. (NYSE: DTV), and Charter Communications Inc. , by the way, are among the MSOs that have historically used TNS's return path data system to develop digital set-top usage metrics. Rosenberg said "it's conceivable" that the Rovi-TNS partnership could intersect with the activities underway at Canoe Ventures LLC , the cross-MSO advanced advertising firm, but notes that Canoe's partners will be making their own decisions on the types of technologies and capabilities they deploy. (See Canoe Preps ITV Ad 'Template' and Canoe Rows Toward Enhanced TV .) Although Rovi and TNS claim that what they'll be measuring is for the greater good, what they will be doing could get privacy zealots a bit lathered up. To avoid such scrutiny, all data collected will be done on an anonymous basis, absent of any personally identifiable information (PII), according to TNS president George Shababb. — Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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