A Next Step in Set Top Box Data Adoption: The CIMM Lexicon

Much has been written about Set-Top Box data. Some say the data are one of the most exciting opportunities for media measurement in recent years. Others point out the vexing problems and inherent challenges. One thing is clear however; Set-Top box data offer granularity that, with some standardization and agreed upon rules, could add to our overall knowledge of media usage.

Jane Clarke, Managing Director CIMM

But where to start? The advancement of Set-Top Box data has been hampered by concerns about privacy, footprints versus samples, editing rules and full access to the data, among other issues. Despite years of collection, aggregation and analysis, Set-Top box data is still essentially in its formative stages. For one thing, new measurement terms and editing rules are being created every day. This is resulting in a “Tower of Babel” where suppliers and users may not always be talking the same language.

As a first step towards standardization and fuller implementation of Set-Top box data as another measurement tool, CIMM has embarked on an ambitious project to collect, collate and interpret all the myriad types of terms that are being developed as part of the Set-Top Box data measurement initiative. The result is a comprehensive Lexicon of Set-Top box data terms and their definitions. Until now, there was no single source that offered a full reference list of these metrics and their definitions.

This week, as part of Cable Week at the CTAM Research & Insights Conference in LA, CIMM debuts the first Set-Top Box Lexicon. This is part of an effort to create a common language so that the standardization and adoption of Set-Top box data as a media measurement tool can proceed smoothly and efficiently across the industry. The Lexicon is a work in progress and will be continually updated.

CIMM Lexicon
CIMM is well positioned in the industry to help with the standardization of terms and usage. CIMM represents a coalition of end users of media measurement who have a vested interest in helping to develop strong, accurate Set-Top box measurement standards that can help to grow their businesses.

The analysis of Set-Top Box data in the U.S. has been expanding in recent months and there are indications that the necessary steps are being taken to standardize data coming from a wide variety of configurations of networks, hardware and software. The data that are starting to become available include not only linear TV data, but data from DVR playback, VOD (Video-on Demand) sessions, ITV (Interactive TV) applications, the EPG (Electronic Program Guide), as well as data from remote controls.

But this is not without measurement constraints that need to be resolved including the standardization of terms and metrics and an agreement on the best algorithm for such metrics as Capping and Latency, for example. There are also coverage considerations because Return Path Data aren’t available for over-the-air homes (which is a diminishing universe) and satellite homes that aren’t connected to phone lines. Finally, there are a range of basic technical issues being addressed, such as synchronizing time across systems, developing edit rules for data outages, accurately identifying content and ads across different boxes and systems, as well as managing the enormous volume of data generated. These are all being addressed now.

Despite the current constraints, the potential uses of Set-Top Box data are many:
 Set-Top Box data, with its larger footprint, can enable unmeasured networks (often highly targeted networks) to finally be measured with statistical stability, enabling them to attract more advertising and grow.
 Set-Top Box data can also provide the granularity needed to produce TV ratings for smaller audiences who are underrepresented in current measurement.
 Tuning data can be provided at second-by-second intervals, providing the potential to measure the audience for commercials with lengths shorter than a minute.
 Set-Top Box data offers an opportunity to measure out-of-home and second home viewing and usage patterns.
 Sellers of local advertising across all networks in small markets often find themselves without enough stable data to get credit for advertisements aired on their networks.
 Additionally, Set-Top Box data enable forms of segmented advertising and creative versioning for programs, networks, dayparts and geographic areas Set-Top Box data can provide new opportunities for the TV industry to attract spending from advertisers that has been spent on direct mail.

The challenges facing the multichannel operators in bringing Set-Top Box data products to market aren’t only technical. There are regulatory and privacy concerns that are being addressed to make sure that data are aggregated and de-identified. There are also business models that need to be built, since the data business is new for multichannel operators, whose primary concern is the relationship with their subscribers and secondarily, advertising partnerships.

All these new opportunities take time to develop, and the initiatives taken now will shape the nature of Set-Top Box data products. The first step is for all of us to begin to speak a common language. CIMM’s goal is to support development of the Set-Top Box data business, and the Lexicon is the first step in this direction.

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