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TV ratings accuracy a worldwide challenge

Expertise varies country-by-country

Think that TV rating systems are a mess in U.S. — what with DVR timeshifting on TVs and online viewing not always monetized for program owners? There are bigger problems worldwide.

Big TV-measuring organizations abroad — BARB in the U.K., Mediametrie in France, AGF in Germany — are all rushing to catch up to the likes of Nielsen, looking to measure timeshifting and integrate alternative viewing platforms such as online, mobile and on-demand.

For the many U.S.-based TV studios that have been pushing for deeper metrics on traditional global TV platforms for years, all this can’t come soon enough.

“As a volume supplier of studio content, we have a multiseason investment in these valuable assets,” says Michael Puopolo, Warner Bros. Intl. TV Distribution research veep. “We work more closely with our clients to ensure our product is the right match demographically for their channel, to give our series and features the best chance for long-term success on their channel.”

While viewing information is increasingly important for international TV distributors, CableReady prexy/CEO Gary Lico says much of the time, it is difficult to get.

“A lot of networks — U.S. or overseas — don’t share program information,” he says.

Adds Peter Iacono, managing director of international television for Lionsgate: “Networks are happy to tell you ratings when the numbers are bad. But when the numbers are good, you might not hear about it.”

Down the road, both U.S. TV studios and advertising and media agencies will also need better data for new TV platforms to account for online timeshifting, mobile and VOD.

BARB (the Broadcast Audience Research Bureau) has been way ahead of other European countries, according to Columbus Media, a worldwide network of independent media buying agencies — especially when it comes to counting timeshifted viewing. In France, Spain, Germany and Italy, it’s a slower evolution.

BARB has produced timeshifted DVR program viewership — up to seven days after an original broadcast — for many years, including older VCR viewership. In France, Mediametrie’s Mediamat TV meters can detect timeshifted viewing. But some kinks need to be worked out with marketers, such as defining what timeframe should be taken into account.

AGF collects data of cable, satellite and terrestrial TV and some timeshifted use. But media executives have been pleading for a standard monitoring system and currency for traditional TV and online video.

In Spain, media executives are pushing for combination of television and online video data for the same research panels — which is similar to a Nielsen effort in the U.S.

Concerning online measurement of TV shows, conditions remain vague. Advertisers can buy TV shows online — with the most popular format being the pre-roll commercial that starts before a particular piece of video/TV program airs. But like in the U.S., it is tough to get specific audience measures, such as age and gender.

Still, it’s good news for online TV sellers overseas: Says Adam Smith, futures director for advertising holding company, Group M: “The pre-roll market is buoyant even without all this specificity.”

Click here for full coverage of Mip 2011

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