TiVo Launches StopWatch Local Markets Ratings Service

At the NAB show in Las Vegas Monday, DVR vendor/service provider, TiVo--in what appears to be an attempt to challenge Nielsen's dominance in the local ratings space--announced StopWatch Local Markets, a version of the company's StopWatch audience ratings service that provides anonymous, second-by-second, year-round ratings data for programming and commercials in local US television markets (note: StopWatch collects its research data from TiVo boxes; TiVo recently announced that it would expand the size of the service's sample from 100,000 to 300,000 boxes--see [itvt] Issue 8.23 Part 2A). The company says that StopWatch Local Markets will be launched over the course of the summer, prior to the fall season, with the specific markets in which it is initially rolled out being determined by the requirements of the service's first customers. "The dearth of information on television audiences in local markets, especially for specific commercial viewership, is astonishing in this day and age," Todd Juenger, VP and general manager of TiVo Audience Research & Measurement, said in a prepared statement. "Even the biggest markets are stuck with sample sizes of less than 1,000 households, no commercial ratings, and limited timeshifting data--and most smaller markets are still relying on diaries. With optimization of ad dollars and ROI more important than ever, advertisers, agencies, broadcasters, cable networks and distributors simply must have better audience data to make informed business and programming decisions and accurately access the performance of advertising campaigns."

TiVo bills StopWatch Local Markets as harnessing all the anonymous research capabilities that StopWatch provides for national programming and commercials (such as large sample size; second-by-second measurement; and the ability to generate data on consumers' timeshifting behavior), and bringing it to the local level. Advantages claimed by TiVo for the new service, in comparison to "other sources of local market data," include:
--Large anonymous sample sizes ranging from 25,000 TiVo subscribers in the top-20 markets, down to 5,000 in the smallest local markets. (Note: The company claims that "in comparison, those markets that are electronically measured by the existing currency panel, which are the largest markets, rely on less than 1,000 households, often as few as 400.")
--Second-by-second anonymous audience measurement, which enables measurement of specific commercials. (Note: TiVo says that "there are no commercial ratings in the existing currency.")
--Live and timeshifted anonymous monitoring of DVR viewing behavior and commercial fast-forwarding. (Note: TiVo says that "the existing currency offers a limited amount of timeshifting data and reports program viewership only--no indication of how many commercials were viewed versus fast-forwarded.)
--A full national footprint with enough subscribers to produce stable anonymous ratings in "virtually every" market across the US, and covering all signal sources including digital and analog cable, satellite, over-the-air and IPTV. (Note: TiVo claims that "no other set-top-box data platform offers comparable coverage.")

Responding to TiVo's announcement of StopWatch Local Markets, a spokesperson for Nielsen told USA Today: "Our ratings are based on samples that reflect the viewing behavior of all households, not just those who have DVR's." The newspaper also pointed out that "TiVo's privacy-protection policies prevent it from collecting important information that Nielsen can provide, including the number of people watching a TV set and demographic breakdowns," and reported that TiVo's Todd Juenger conceded that TiVo subscribers are not necessarily perfectly reflective of the demographics of TV viewers in general, in that they are richer, better-educated and "unfortunately, a little more white" than the population at large (Juenger did, however, state that the difference between TiVo and non-TiVo viewers is not "gigantic").


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