Set Top Box Data - Issues Part 2

This is a follow-up to the March 2008 article I wrote on set top box data. This one was published in MediaPost in February 2009 and continues the discussion about the need for standardization and cooperation between the various data processors.

Set-Top-Box Data: Next Steps
by Charlene Weisler , Wednesday, February 4, 2009

ONCE A HYPOTHETICAL EXERCISE, SET-TOP-BOX data as a measurement tool is quickly becoming a reality. At this time there are several well-positioned companies jockeying for dominance with their varying methodologies, data footprints and sources. But in this seemingly chaotic competitive land rush, there are those who are actively seeking conciliation and structure. MPG's Set Top Box Data luncheon on Jan. 7, organized by MPG's Mitch Oscar, was a very positive step in this direction.

Attending were agency researchers, content company researchers, data processors and providers, developers and programmers, all of whom engaged in lively discussion of possible next steps for data usage and acceptance.

As an advocate for the use of set-top-box data as a measurement tool, I think that now is the time to examine the next steps needed to standardize, analyze and ultimately monetize this breakthrough data source.

Here are a few suggested next steps:
Set up a non-affiliated, non-partisan advisory council either through an established industry or respected accreditation organization. This council, composed of programmers, agencies, processors and suppliers, would help build consensus and guide the formation of a new measurement currency that works for all interested parties.

Standardization of data processing rules. Can we agree on certain data attributes as the foundation for which other data points are based? For example: standard latency periods.

Standardization of the metrics and nomenclature. Do we conform to the current currency of ratings, shares, HUTS and PUTS? Or do we find new, relevant measurements that all processors can agree upon?

Address and overcome data deficiencies. Yes, there are bonafide issues with set-top-box data. For example: There is no agreed-upon national footprint, and efforts to weight the data to make it more national are not universally accepted.

Agree to dispense with "red herring issues" that only serve to confuse. Some stated problems are not really problems. For example: Lack of demographics is not a deficiency with the data, since datapoints can be matched to actual spending and lifestyle information via companies such as Acxiom. Isn't that what advertisers and programmers really want? Not all women 18-49 are alike or equally valuable to advertisers.

Aggressively market data advantages. Set-top-box data remains the only source of second-by-second measurement. That, along with DVR usage, extensive and stable out-of home information, the ability to integrate seamlessly with online usage, and the ability to parse out actual ad performance, makes the data unique and valuable to a range of customers and is currently unavailable within the current currency. These are market positions worth repeating.

Cooperation and partnerships can help form a foundation for data acceptance and provide the missing pieces of this media measurement puzzle.

Work with Accreditation services to help vet the process and speed acceptance of the data as a possible industry currency.

Charlene Weisler was recently senior vice president, research, Rainbow Media Networks and Services.

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