Last year approximately $45 Billion dollars exchanged hands between programmers/ networks operators and the advertisers. The value of a particular 30 second commercial is directly related to the total number and demographics of the viewers that were tuned to and likely saw the programming segment that contained the ad. And in the US, one company, Nielsen Media Research, has had the primary task of independently measuring and reporting TV viewing statistics continuously since television broadcasting began more than 50 years ago. The Nielsen ratings has become the currency of the TV industry.
The core technology used to measure TV viewing has been based on determining what frequency/channel the home TVs, cable settop or satellite receivers are tuned to using direct RF frequency measurement of the tuner’s local oscillator, or indirect channel segregates such as, reading LED or on-screen channel indicators, or a number of other channel determination based technologies. However, the adoption of digital transmission technologies plus new digital based consumer electronics equipment in the home are creating new challenges to frequency/ channel based TV measurement technology. Multiplexed program distribution, time-shifted viewing, xVOD, IPTV, and home wireless video networks are blurring the traditional concept of “channel” and are causing a Global obsoleteness of all channel based TV measurement technologies requiring totally new TV measurement techniques to be developed and rapidly deployed.
This paper will provide a brief historical TV measurement technology overview; detail the current measurement technology and issues caused by various digital over-the-air, cable, and satellite distribution techniques as well as the plethora of new digital consumer electronic devices. The paper will also describe the new Universal Metering Initiative (UMI) technology that is being deployed by Nielsen to measure all analog or digital over-the-air, cable-TV, and satellite viewing, including capability for all forms of time-shifted viewing.