Cox, Turner Announce Results of VOD Ad Exposure Trial Involving Cox's MyPrimetime Service

--Preserve Watermark for Nielsen C+3 Ratings, Claim 80%+ of Viewers OK with FF-Disabled VOD

Cox Communications, the US's third-largest cable MSO, and Time Warner-owned programming giant, Turner Broadcasting System, announced Wednesday that they had successfully measured advertising exposure in VOD content located within Cox's MyPrimetime On Demand service. In a trial effort, the companies say, Turner confirmed that timeshifted VOD viewing of its programs could be counted toward Nielsen C+3 ratings, a key industry measure that is designed to indicate how many viewers are exposed to commercials within three days of the original airing of the program with which those commercials are associated. The on-demand programs were available free--with a full broadcast ad load and with fast-forward functionality disabled--to select Cox Digital Cable customers the day after their first run on linear TV.

Cox and Turner began testing customer response to VOD programming with full ad load and with fast-forwarding disabled, back in December, 2008. According to the companies, the tests involved on-demand playback of eight of Turner's most popular shows, including "The Closer" (airs on Turner's TNT channel), "Tyler Perry's Meet the Browns" (airs on its TBS channel) and "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" (airs on its Cartoon Network channel). They say that the challenge addressed by their collaboration was to meet the same measurement standards with VOD content as are applied to broadcast viewing. The companies claim that they were able to preserve the Nielsen watermark, an inaudible cue tone that is detected by Nielsen's People Meters in order to measure advertising exposure, and to deliver the content in exactly the same form as linear broadcast. One of the most important findings of the trial, according to the companies, is that--even with fast-forward functionality disabled--viewers still chose to view entire shows nearly 100% of the time, compared to online views which typically represent significantly less than entire shows. "One of the major challenges faced by programmers and distributors in offering consumers greater convenience in time-shifting content has been preserving the advertising business model that enables high-quality programming to be produced in the first place," Bob Wilson, Cox's SVP of programming, said in a prepared statement. "Our work with Turner demonstrates that consumers will view on-demand content, with advertising, and that this exposure can be measured; this is a major milestone that will enable more content and convenience for consumers."

According to Cox and Turner, offering programs on the day after their original airing, even with full commercial load, was shown to give a lift of almost 10% to the average program within three days. These figures are significant, the companies say, because they show that VOD programming has a strong appeal to many viewers, regardless of commercial content. The trial was the first that the companies have conducted involving the measurement of VOD content and non-skippable commercials. "This is a win-win for everyone involved," Coleman Breland, COO of Turner's ad sales arm, Turner Network Sales, said in a prepared statement. "The collaboration shows how cable networks and their affiliates can preserve ad revenue, while still giving viewers anytime access to the popular programming they love. Because commercials aren't skipped, advertisers know their messages get through and most importantly, viewers get what they want when they want it."

Cox bills MyPrimetime, which was launched in 2007, as offering viewers free access, with fast-forwarding disabled, to shows from over 20 of the most popular networks the day after they first air. The MSO claims that its internal research shows that over 80% of customers who view content in MyPrimetime are satisfied with the experience; that 20% say that, if a show hadn't been available to them in MyPrimetime, they would not have set a DVR to record it; and that 27% say that they would not have watched the show at all. It plans to significantly increase the amount of programming available through the service this fall.

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