Nielsen pulled out its checkbook Friday and deposited $2.5 million into the Council for Research Excellence, dwarfing the financial coffers of the recently formed Coalition for Innovative Media Measurement. The new grant to the CRE, formed in 2005 to conduct methodological research for improving media measurement, brings Nielsen's total investment to $10 million.
Nielsen's cash investment comes a little more than one month after 14 of the nation's largest media producers, agencies and advertisers formed their own group -- independent of Nielsen -- to foster innovation in audience measurement. Each company has reportedly contributed $100,000 to the organization, for a total of $1.4 million.
While CIMM, which is actively recruiting new members, doesn't directly challenge Nielsen with a new ratings service, the group could open the door to would-be Nielsen competitors. It certainly seems to have lit a fire under Nielsen, which recently held a meeting with clients to discuss how Nielsen might accelerate the integration of online video ratings with traditional ratings.
"We continue to see the CRE as one of the best investments we can make towards bringing together people who often have competing agendas and different points of view," said Susan Whiting, vice chair of Nielsen, parent company of Adweek.
Earlier this year in March, CRE unveiled the results of its first research project, a groundbreaking Video Mapping Study that provided an eye-opening benchmark of consumer media behavior. Conducted by Ball State University's Center for Media Design and Sequent Partners, this study alone cost $3.5 million.
The CRE also recently conducted a non-response study to understand the media habits and characteristics of people who decline to participate in Nielsen surveys.
Two other CRE studies are in the planning stages, including one on set top box measurement and media universe estimates.
The CRE currently has about 40 members representing Nielsen's various client constituencies, including advertisers, broadcast networks and stations, cable networks and syndication firms. Ironically, a number of CIMM members are also CRE members.