Sending a message to its harshest critics and biggest clients, Nielsen Media Research has teamed with Lucent Technologies to develop high-tech means of measuring TV viewing and online usage.

Nielsen has come under fire from the major broadcast and cable networks in recent years for relying on what critics have termed outmoded technology to generate the program ratings that are the currency of the TV industry.

Nielsen’s pact with Lucent is primarily focused on developing the next-generation of TV meters in preparation for the industry’s transition to high-definition TV. Nielsen’s existing measurement systems won’t work when broadcasters and cable operators make the leap from analog to digital.

The agreement between the two companies was unveiled Friday by John A. Dimling, Nielsen’s president and chief operating officer, and Lucent director of advanced communications technology Victor B. Lawrence.

Lucent is a top communications technology firm that helped develop the industry’s original standards for digital TV transmissions. While no money is changing hands in Lucent’s deal with Nielsen, the two companies may partner in the future on products and technologies developed through their joint research & development effort.

Lucent and Nielsen also are developing a metering system to track the online surfing habits of personal-computer users.

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