NEW YORK TNS Media Research has entered into an agreement with News Corp.-owned satellite TV provider DirecTV to measure the daily household viewing habits of 250,000 interactive subscribers.
The parties said the deal established the largest "census" examination of a single national TV viewing source to date.
By comparison, the national Nielsen ratings that measure all major broadcast and cable networks are based on a sample of just 10,000 homes nationwide. While sample-based ratings techniques are statistically valid, some researchers say that samples are less reliable in a media environment where there are hundreds of viewing choices. (Nielsen, like Adweek, is owned by VNU.)
TNS is one of several research companies trying to work with cable and satellite companies to analyze TV viewing household by household beyond just a small sample of homes.
Research company erinMedia is now approaching major cable companies such as Comcast and Time Warner to see if they will cooperate in the launch of a new national ratings service that would measure viewing in hundreds of thousands of homes instead of just a few thousand. Nielsen too has had conversations with cable operators about testing a similar method, as has TNS.
The purpose of the DirecTV study is to better understand consumer consumption of the various services that it offers, including how viewers navigate through DirecTV's various interactive programming and advertising applications.
In addition to reach and frequency reports, TNS will provide minute-by-minute daypart program and ad tracking as well as data about viewing on DVRs.
"By working with TNS Media Research, we will be able to provide our programming partners and our advertisers with a deep understanding of our interactive services and enable them to make more well-informed and strategic decisions," said Eric Shanks, executive vice president, DirecTV Entertainment, in a statement.
"Partnering with DirecTV represents another key milestone in our U.S. strategy of providing advanced digital audience measurement services that will have a significant impact on our customers' bottom line," said George Shababb, chief operating officer, TNS.