Inside Move: UIP ditches overseas aud tracking service

National Research Group sacked

Hollywood has always had mixed feelings about tracking studies, those ubiquitous research efforts aimed at gauging moviegoers’ awareness of future movies and their likelihood of seeing them. This is especially true of the overseas arena. Companies are eager for the info, but occasionally skeptical about its reliability.

Now, United Intl. Pictures has decided to drop National Research Group’s tracking service, though the international distrib will have a continuing relationship with the L.A.-based firm for other sorts of overseas research.

Execs at UIP — which handles foreign distribution for Universal, DreamWorks and Paramount — decline comment. But well-placed sources say the move follows long-simmering unease over the efficacy of international film-tracking data provided by NRG, which enjoys a virtual monopoly internationally and also dominates the domestic market.

UIP is in the process of formally notifying NRG it intends to stop using the tracking service after Dec. 31, sources say. Distrib still will be using some other NRG research offerings, such as focus groups and testing of viewer response to TV commercials and other overseas advertising materials.

NRG topper Joe Farrell says he considers the firm’s relationship with UIP unchanged. “We have no reason to expect anything to the contrary,” Farrell emphasizes.

Major Hollywood studios each pay upward of $1 million for international tracking data, but their individual tabs are based on the assumption that all of the studios will participate. So, when UIP ankles, that could cause the cost of the tracking service to increase for studios who continue as NRG clients — and that could prompt further client flight, sources speculate.

Domestically, NRG’s chief competitor is MarketCast, which is owned by Variety parent Reed Business Information.

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