In this episode of Brandstorm, we welcome Gerardo Guzman, senior vice president of product leadership and Kristen Millsap, account director of client solutions at Nielsen. With so many viewing options for television these days, they join us to discuss what’s new in TV measurement and the company’s efforts to provide accurate measurement of modern TV viewing habits.

A leading global information and measurement company, Nielsen has provided market research, insights and data about what people watch, listen to and buy for over 90 years. They accomplish this through a myriad of methods, including what’s known as panels, or small segments of homes in cities that represent the marketplace. By using these panels, Nielsen can gauge over 120 different characteristics per household, such as how many cars are owned and how many people live there. With technology on the rise and viewing habits changing rapidly, Gerardo explains Nielsen’s three current focuses: measuring viewership on different devices (such as iPads, phones and laptops), different services (including Netflix, over-the-air stations and mobile applications) and how to improve the core video measurement of what’s being watched on television.

What’s New in 2018
Gerardo tells us there are big changes ahead this year for Nielsen, not just in the volume of change but how quickly it will occur. One of the biggest changes in 2018 is that the paper diaries, where Nielsen households log their viewing habits, will be retired by the end of the year. Gerardo says diaries – which were introduced when there were only three or four networks, and are still used in 140 smaller TV markets – are no long efficient with hundreds of channels and a multitude of ways to watch video content, a term Nielsen is using to refer to all the ways people are getting their TV programming. Nielsen will now be electronically metering and measuring homes in all 210 U.S. television markets. There are 70 large markets are already equipped with electronic monitoring.

The More Data, The Better
If someone leaves a television on when they leave the room for an extended period, would that still count as the program being watched? To an extent, it can with Nielsen’s 2013 acquisition of radio market research firm Arbitron. The Portable People Meter (PPM), originally used to pick up AM/FM signals, is worn like a pager and can note broadcasts if a person leaves the room.

With all the ad-supported mobile apps from networks like CBS and Discovery Channel, Gerardo explains that Nielsen’s technology is embedded for tracking, yet there are different potential advertising situations there. A show may have a different ad schedule than how it originally aired on live television or the ads may be the same as how the show originally aired. The marketplace may have to sort out how to measure viewing before a true solution emerges.

How Specific the Data Can Be
Gerardo informs us that with all the technological improvements that benefit Nielsen, the information they gather can be incredibly granular. An example is a local news broadcast, where it can be known when people are changing the channel, down to the minute. Even if a weatherperson makes a joke on air, Nielsen can track who is tuning out when that occurs, which could lead to the station making a change in the way that anchor delivers the forecast.

The Future of TV and Advertising
The pace of change is going to continue and increase. Nielsen is currently making investments in technology that we’ll likely see one to three years from now, because no matter what or how content is consumed, it still needs to be measured. And while technology makes it easier for us to watch TV programming on mobile devices – with the potential of apps taking over cable subscriptions down the line – Gerardo notes that 20% of the United States is still without broadband internet service, so the audience for over-the-air television will not be going away soon.

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