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TiVo Expands Push Into Viewer Data

Nov 16, 2008  •  Post A Comment

In an effort to learn more about how digital video recorder usage is affecting television viewing, TiVo has quintupled the number of homes in its StopWatch ratings service to 100,000.
Early results: Viewers are watching more TV than they did a year ago.
The bigger sample will decrease the margin of error and allow TiVo to track smaller networks, many of which are not measured by other ratings services, including Discovery’s Planet Green, Comcast’s Sprout and NBC Universal’s Sleuth.
TiVo sells the StopWatch service to media buying agencies that are interested in the DVR maker’s second-by-second data, which gives them a closer look at whether viewers are watching or fast-forwarding through commercials.
Nielsen, whose commercial ratings service is used as the currency for buying commercials, uses minute-by-minute measurement. Nielsen’s DVR sample is about 4,000 homes.
“When you’re trying to understand commercial fast-forwarding and time-shifted viewing, obviously an enormously bigger sample becomes important, especially when you look at lower-viewership networks,” said Todd Juenger, VP and general manager of TiVo Audience Research & Measurement.
StopWatch now covers all viewing from 5 a.m. through 11:30 p.m. and provides commercial ratings for 60 networks. It also provides viewership data for another 15 networks, some of which are commercial-free, including HBO, Showtime and Disney.
Unlike Nielsen’s system, StopWatch does not offer demographic details about who is watching which shows, or not watching which commercials. TiVo is putting together another service called PowerWatch that will add a 20,000-household panel that will supply demographic information about viewers in that home.
Mr. Juenger said TiVo expects to continue to increase its sample size and to report ratings for more networks.
TiVo’s second-by-second data also allows advertisers to get ratings for individual commercials (Nielsen’s ratings are for the average commercial minute within a program) and data on whether ads are being watched during playback or fast-forwarded.
That data has been revealing to ad buyers.
“We’ve actually used it quite a bit. There’s a lot of interest from our advertisers and we were really anxious to take it one step further,” said Tracey Scheppach, VP and video innovation director at Starcom, which was one of the first media buyers to work with TiVo on ratings and helped name both the StopWatch and PowerWatch products.
Because TiVo’s users like TV and tend to watch more, StopWatch data can’t be used directly for buying media.
“It’s not a currency. This is about insight. This is about staying ahead of the curve and understanding how it is possible to ingest second-by-second data,” she said.
More TV
The demographic information PowerWatch will add is not as important as specific brand information Starcom will be able to get by asking panels questions such as “Do you wear glasses?” or “Are you planning a vacation?,” Ms. Scheppach said.
When those questions are checked against viewing activity, however, “That becomes incredibly powerful,” she said.
The first results from StopWatch’s new 100,000-home sample show that TiVo owners are actually watching 13% more broadcast network television and 9% more commercials than they were a year ago. They’re not watching any more live, but their time-shifted viewing is up 24%. Commercial skipping is at 58%, up from 57% a year ago.
Mr. Juenger attributes some of the increase in viewing to the economy.
“It would not be surprising to me if people are watching more TV in general as opposed to going to the movies or eating in a restaurant,” he said.
He also noted that a few new shows, notably “Fringe” and “The Mentalist,” were getting higher ratings than new shows launched last year. Time-shifting on “Fringe” accounted for 70% of its total viewing, while 60% of those seeing “The Mentalist” watched it after it originally aired.

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