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TNS Vs. Nielsen: We Ask The Questions To George Shababb

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TNS, the market insight and information company, is currently in a war of the ratings with Nielsen. If you ask us, it’s not a moment too soon. The recently acquired WPP company is taking the monopolistic Nielsen head on with their service DirectView, which uses ses satellite company DirecTV’s set-top boxes to collect data on live and time-shifted audience ratings on a “second-by-second” basis. We got a chance to ask George Shababb, COO, of TNS Media Research, a few questions about their service.

1. CurrentTV and Discovery Communications recently signed up to useTNS’s Directview over Nielsen’s DigitalPlus. What is it that your company is offering that differs from Nielsen’s ratings system?

“TNS Media Research will be launching DIRECTView in January 2009. DIRECTView is a national audience measurement service based on 100,000 households taken from DIRECTV. The service will feature live and time shifted viewing activity as well as second by second commercial tracking. Nielsen’s DigitalPlus is based on a recent data from Charter LA, which I might add TNS MR has also been offering to the market since May 2006.

2. TNS is gathering ratings using “set-top” systems. Is tracking opt-in or something that consumers have no choice over?

In this initial phase the households were selected anonymously without any divulging of personally identifiable information to TNS. In Phase II the plan is to bring on an additional 100k households who will be asked to opt-in and provide demographic information.

3. Your pulling from across 100,000 of 17 million DirectTV users for your DirectView offering. While that’s way more than Nielsen’s 14,000 families, still, is that really a large enough sample from which media buyers and content providers can base their decisions on?

Yes, especially for many of the smaller networks which go unreported in the Nielsen system and which in aggregate account for about 30% of viewing.

4. You’ve partnered with NDS to deliver targeted ads to consumers. This service provides TIVO users with targeted ads that have been inserted in lieu of general broadcast spots. But, what about the old argument that DVR users fast forwarded through ad placements?

The idea behind targeted or addressable advertising is to deliver relevant creative to homes who have been pre-selected to have an interest in product or service being advertised; that is we want to send dog food ads to dog owners thus eliminating the waste associated with sending ads to non dog owners. In the work we did with Comcast and SMG in Huntsville we demonstrated that not only does addressable advertising lead to improved efficiency but also consumers are much less inclined to tune away from the commercials.

5. As for the ad targeting, when can we see the service up and running?

Addressable advertising is still in trial mode – as a follow up to the Huntsville trial above, TNS is now working with Comcast and SMG in Baltimore on a much larger market trial.

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