At the ARF's Audience Measurement 6.0 Symposium, Nielsen announced its vision for improving local market measurement by combining set-top-box data with Nielsen People Meter data and demographics. Patrick Dineen, SVP Media Product Leadership, The Nielsen Company, and Peter Doe, SVP Measurement Science, The Nielsen Company spoke with us about the implications of this new methodology.

ARF: What challenges/opportunities do these new market forces present to Local TV clients?

Dineen and Doe: The opportunities are significant. Providing advertisers, agencies, and broadcasters with much higher fidelity local TV measurement at a reasonable value helps the entire industry. Broadcasters will have more measurable ad inventory to sell, and advertisers will have better understanding on reaching audiences.

However, there are some largely traditional challenges to the industry. There are tradeoffs between representation and the desire to take advantage of the somewhat large and elusive "census" sample sizes. There are new methodologies to evaluate and accept. Change is always difficult in the TV business when it comes to measurement modifications.

ARF: How do we innovate media measurement to keep up with the changing landscape?

Dineen and Doe: Nielsen constantly evaluates new opportunities to innovate, both technological and methodological. The advent of useful STB data is such an opportunity that it is only now starting to become viable in terms of enough of the right data to build a service, and Nielsen is working to seize that opportunity in a way that is acceptable to clients. The key is acceptance of the innovation. With $15B in local spot advertising revenues at play, even the most promising and important landscape changes must be brought to the marketplace thoughtfully, with full understanding of the impact.

The only certainty is of more changes to come in the landscape, for instance take the rapid emergence of tablets or the growth of mobile viewing.

ARF: What is hybrid audience measurement? What are its benefits/ limitations? What is Nielsen's approach?

Dineen and Doe: Good research entails making the best use of all available information. Hybrid methodologies combine representative panels with large machine-collected "census-like" samples to provide significantly higher fidelity measurement. Key benefits include improved stability and increased granularity from the machine data (e.g., server, STB) while continuing to leverage the full advantage of panel data to connect to people, enabling demographic analysis and addressing gaps in the machine data.

One of the main limitations of machine data is completeness (e.g., STB data are not available for analog cable boxes, and persons viewing is not recorded). Nielsen has developed various methodologies that address these data gaps to meet various client needs, integrating Nielsen panel and population data for comprehensive measurement of markets and media. We are working hard with our clients to explore hybrid measurement for TV STB samples and for online measurement using server data.

ARF: How can these techniques impact local measurement for local TV clients now and in the future?

Dineen and Doe: We hope to bring the benefits of these techniques to our clients as early as next year. But as with any significant changes to ratings, a rollout of STB hybrid will likely take some time. Our clients will need to evaluate how new STB hybrid ratings are different from the ratings they use and trade on today. This process of understanding impact is very important. We are working with our clients right now to understand their thinking about how we might introduce STB hybrid. Bottom line is that we will continue to be very client driven.