TNS, Rovi Partner on Set-Top Box Measurement

TNS Media Research is partnering with interactive program guide developer Rovi, in a bid to create advanced measurement systems for cable set-top boxes.

Per terms of the agreement, TNS and Rovi will join forces to provide audience-measurement and IPG usage data to cable systems and advertisers. Both parties will look to measure viewing across live, time-shifted and on-demand programming.

Long a dominant player in the IPG space, Rovi (formerly Macrovision) developed the i-Guide IPG, in a joint effort with Comcast. That software is deployed in some 6.5 million digital set-top boxes. Rovi also offers cable operators a license for its Passport Echo IPG for use in DVR-enabled boxes. That software is in use in around 3.9 million households.

TNS president George Shababb said the researcher will merge its proprietary reporting capability with Rovi’s clickstream technology, with an eye toward providing MSOs and clients with a more granular view of how subscribers are interacting with commercials. “It’s no longer just about reach and ratings, but about gaining true insight into the habits of the audience,” Shababb said. “We are looking forward to working with Rovi to develop new applications and services.”

TNS currently leverages return-path data in its DirectView application, which provides second-by-second audience measurement in 100,000 DirecTV homes. In 2006, the research company began measuring viewer activity in Charter Communications’ Los Angeles footprint.

According to internal estimates, Rovi IPG advertising technology is active in 25 million homes in North America, making it one of the most broadly deployed ITV ad platforms. The company said it has “made excellent progress in enlisting MSOs to participate in IPG user measurement,” lining up operators “in five of the top media markets, and a dozen DMAs overall.

Credible set-top data is in great demand, but thus far technology issues and operational logistics have prevented the development of a national measurement initiative. But the value of second-by-second data has everyone jumping into the set-top pool, including Nielsen. Last March, the research giant launched its DigitalPlus service, which processes set-top data from about 330,000 households, the lion’s share of which are clustered in that same Charter system.

In December of last year, Nielsen officially commercialized its STB measurement service, signing on its first network partner, National Geographic Channel.

Mediaweek is a unit of the Nielsen Co.