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Nielsen meets with big clients to discuss Internet measurement

October 16, 2009 |  2:50 pm

Nielsen Co. has wrapped an important meeting with 80 clients from companies that included CBS, NBC, ABC, Microsoft, Time Warner, Comcast and Hulu where the topic was how best to move ahead with developing a single-source system that will measure both television and Internet media consumption in the home.

ERICHSON The push from some clients is to get such a system up and running by late 2010. Nielsen has been pushing for the middle of 2011. Putting the squeeze on to move up the timeline are cable giants Comcast and Time Warner Cable, according to a person at the meeting. Both are pushing new online viewing services and have lined up several major cable networks to provide content.

Currently, Nielsen has people meters in about 18,000 homes. It's those meters that provide the ratings responsible for billions of dollars' worth of ad sales. As more and more people start to watch content online on sites such as Hulu or YouTube, content providers and distributors want solid numbers to sell advertising. Nielsen has been testing measuring for both TV and Internet viewing in about 395 homes. Nielsen measures online usage in a separate sample that tracks about 200,000 people. If you are wondering, like I was, why the Internet sample is so big, that's because while Nielsen only tracks about 100 channels, it follows 20,000 websites.

There was a "broad agreement" of adding Internet measurement in the households that already have people meters," said Sara Erichson, Nielsen's president of Media Client Services, who ran the get-together at the Harvard Club in midtown Manhattan.

The challenge, Erichson said, is finding homes that will allow for both the people meter and the software that goes inside the computer to measure Web watching.

"Tens of billions of dollars are transacted off of these numbers; we want to make sure that by asking people to do both, you don't have fewer people saying yes," she said. "Can we do it faster without negatively impacting quality" is the issue, she added.

-- Joe Flint

Photo: Nielsen's Sara Erichson. Credit: Nielsen Co.