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Nielsen to powwow with media to plot combined measurement system

October 8, 2009 |  2:51 pm

Nielsen is going to huddle up with its clients next week -- advertisers, agencies and TV networks -- over how best to combine measurement of online and over-the-air viewing of content.

ERICHSON In a letter sent to 75 clients, Nielsen said it was holding the Oct. 16 meeting as part of its ongoing process to create a one-size-fits-all system, which has been in the works for several years. The letter, from Nielsen Media Client Services President Sara Erichson, said, "given that more than $70 billion of television advertising is bought and sold using Nielsen ratings, we are careful not to take any actions that would dilute the reliability of the core television ratings data. Consequently,we are undertaking an extensive evaluation program before fully integrating television and Internet measurement." News of the meeting was broken by Claire Atkinson of Broadcasting & Cable.

Motivating Nielsen's desire for the big sit-down is the push by Time Warner Cable and Comcast Corp. to launch their own online programming initiatives -- TV Everywhere and OnDemand Online, respectively. "The purpose of this executive briefing is to explain the implications of OnDemand Online and TV Everywhere for television audience measurement and to outline what we are doing to prepare for the launch," Erichson wrote.

Nielsen has been testing measuring viewing of online content already. It currently has meters in 375 of the 18,000 homes it measures for TV ratings that are also keeping track of Internet viewing. That sample is obviously much too small to provide real trends but it is big enough for the company to see if it can introduce Internet measurement without contaminating the quality of the sample.

Of course, people are going to speculate that Nielsen's call for a huddle with clients is somehow tied to the recent announcement by 14 major media companies and advertisers to create the Coalition for Innovative Media Measurement (CIMM) to foster development of improved measurement systems. A Nielsen spokesman noted that its plan for a new system have been in the works for three years and is not a reaction to CIMM. That said, many of the CIMM members will be at the meeting, so be sure to check them for hidden cameras.

The meeting will be held at the Harvard Club. Guard the silverware.

-- Joe Flint

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