Cautious Nielsen to Track TV Everywhere by 2011

Multi-service operators may be charging head first into their TV Everywhere initiatives, but Nielsen is taking a — pardon the pun — more measured approach. In an open letter posted to its corporate blog today, Sara Erichson, Nielsen President, Media Client Services North America wrote explained the company’s cautious approach (hat tip to Multichannel News):

Nielsen has developed an Internet software meter that uses the same technology to measure video viewing online as the Nielsen Active/Passive (A/P) Meter does for television. We’ve currently installed this Internet software meter among 375 homes in our National People Meter panel, allowing us to evaluate the measurement of Internet usage alongside TV usage. Given that more than $70 billion of television advertising is bought and sold using Nielsen ratings, we are careful not to take any actions that would dilute the reliability of the core television ratings data. Consequently, we are undertaking an extensive evaluation program before fully integrating television and Internet measurement.

Long story short, Nielsen will start rolling out its Internet meter to all People Meter homes before the end of the year with complete installation in 2010 and full implementation in early 2011.

TV Everywhere has been a hot topic over the summer as Comcast, Time Warner Cable, DirecTV and AT&T all talked up their respective authentication trials. But being able to include online views into the overall ratings for TV shows is critical for networks hungry to hang onto ad dollars. When we spoke to Comcast OnDemand Online trial participant CBS, they said that getting third-party metrics from a company like Nielsen was one of several hurdles Comcast needed to overcome in order to get permanent access to CBS content.

Nielsen’s methods have come under fire this year from both old and newteevee as Hulu, American Idol and ABC World News have all contested their ratings. This public show of assurance from Nielsen comes less than a month after a bevy of TV networks like NBC, Time Warner and Disney teamed up with advertisers like Procter & Gamble and media agencies like GroupM to form their own supergroup of a cross-platform media measurement firm.

TV Everywhere is such a big topic for our industry that we’ve made it one of our main themes at this year’s NewTeeVee Live conference. We’ll be speaking with such industry luminaries like Roku CEO, Anthony Wood; Comedy Central EVP Digital, Erik Flannigan; and Boxee CEO, Avner Ronen. Early bird-priced tickets are on sale now.

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