Nielsen: The ad ratings bully?
LPM stands for Local People Meter, and it is the "new" technology Nielsen began rolling out last year to better track TV watching in the home. Here's a picture:
Yes, that janky-looking box is brand-spanking new. I don't know about you, but in my mind, the 5000 "Nielsen Homes" were already outfitted with cool-lookinig Star Trek boxes with lots of lights and buttons, and did a great job tracking every minute someone was watching TV, came with a fancy remote control, and did not look like those disco cable-connected non-remotes from the 70s!
How's it work? Well, when a member of the household turns the TV on or off, they must identify themself at the box. Also, when a channel change occurs, a log in is necessary as well. The box tracks this information, along with tracking the signal change on the cable, and sends it back to Nielsen. I guess it's a notch better than people filling out journals with crayons, but not much.
Well, that's all they have so far, and they are JUST rolling them out. I could go on at length about how amazing it is to me that the entire TV and media industry have accepted the status quo for so long, but I digress. What IS important is that the LPM data is not necessarily providing the info that the advertisers or broadcasters were expecting to hear. Unexpected variances are already showing up, and there is concern that the data does not accurately represent minority households.
PVR, in case you have missed the boat so far, stands for Personal Video Recorder, the category many already refer to as "TiVo" (despite the lack of unit sales - again, a different topic for a different day). PVRs use internal hard disk drives to record shows, and are able to accurately represent every channel being watched and every show being recorded. Furthermore, PVRs can typically track a user who pauses, rewinds, or fast-forwards a show. TiVo reported some interesting statistics about Janet's wardrobe "mishap" at last year's Superbowl (it was, apparently, the most highly replayed moment across all TiVo users in history).
The PVR category introduces very interesting statistics for Madison Avenue, and the issue at hand now is that Nielsen is attempting to become the sole purveyor of this data. The advertisers, on the other hand, are (rightfully) recognizing they don't need the middle man this time. They can work straight with TiVo, or DirecTV, or Comcast, and get the exact data they are looking for.
It's interesting to think about the potential outcomes here, including the new forms of revenue for the PVR business, as well as the increased accuracy of data for the advertisers. A recurring theme you should anticipate seeing here is this one: I am hugely in favor of giving advertisers more data if it will either (A) give me better ads during the shows I watch, or (B) keep the smaller shows on the air because of tighter demographic/audience reach. Can someone PLEASE cancel that Raymond show already???
By the way, if you don't have a PVR, go buy a TiVo - even Target sells them now! If you can get the DirecTV-TiVo combo, I highly recommend it.