Nielsen, Digimarc Prep Media Manager

NEW YORK The Nielsen Co. said it has developed a product that would allow media companies to police the distribution of their video content on sites like YouTube—and ultimately help them make money on the consumer-driven phenomenon.

The media research firm and parent company of Adweek has partnered with Beaverton, Ore.-based technology vendor Digimarc to launch a new service, Nielsen Digital Media Manager, designed to aid TV networks, independent content producers and various online video distributors track where users are posting and streaming copyrighted video content.

Rolling out in mid-2008, the new service combines two tracking techniques: digital “watermarking” and “fingerprinting.” In tandem, they should provide producers with a complete picture of where their content resides on the Internet.

“Content owners have lost the ability to track and control the distribution of their content,” said Dave Harkness, Nielsen’s svp, strategy and development. “They feel that they can no longer control their own destiny.”

Harkness explained that since media giants like Viacom have clashed with YouTube over the unauthorized distribution of video content, several companies have begun peddling technological solutions to the problem. Most are offering either fingerprinting—which involves extracting audio or video snippets from content that can identify copyrighted materials, or watermarking, which requires the implementation of some sort of tracking code within content.

“We are in a unique position to a offer a comprehensive, practical solution,” he said. “The problem that other companies have is that they need the content ahead of time [to implement their tracking]. For Nielsen, that’s no problem at all.”

That’s because Nielsen automatically accesses the vast majority of TV content before it airs, and already regularly implements both fingerprinting and watermarking, locally and nationally.

While not available initially, Harkness said that Nielsen Digital Media Manager could eventually include a feature that automatically places some sort of advertising adjacent to a media company’s professionally produced content. In that scenario, both the content company and the distributor would have had to work out the ad sales parameters ahead of time.

Eventually, Nielsen plans to expand the usage of the service to other forms of media, including music and DVDs, said Harkness.