A company whose technology enables local television stations to stream live television shows to mobile devices has successfully completed a test of Nielsen’s new software for measuring viewing on the new screens.
Syncbak is the first to integrate Nielsen’s technology into its applications, clearing the way for broadcasters to measure local TV viewing on smartphones and tablets. These mobile audiences will be counted later this year, as part of the program’s ratings, as long as it’s the same program with the same ads that appeared on live TV.
Such a development is critical to the future of the industry. As Americans watch television shows on screens other than their TVs, broadcasters have been eager to find a way to quantify this viewing and count it as part of a program’s ratings. The size of a show’s audience, of course, has a direct bearing on advertising revenue.
Technology and consumer habits are evolving faster than business models. Broadcasters have raced to provide legitimate ways for viewers — especially those aged 14 to 24 — to watch shows on their laptops, tablets and smartphones. But as measurement lagged, so, too, has the ability to attract the ad revenue that helps underwrite the cost of creating expensive programming.
It’s a situation that, over time, poses a threat to the kinds of shows networks can afford to create (think more reality programs like “Duck Dynasty,” fewer well-crafted, scripted comedies like the just-concluded “How I Met Your Mother.”) Not to mention the threat to network executives’ compensation packages.
Syncbak started testing Nielsen’s mobile measurement technology last year with four CBS-owned TV stations. It will integrate the software into apps for Apple’s iOS mobile devices, with plans to expand to the Android platform.
“Our goal is to take live broadcast television over the Internet in ways that make money and increase viewing,” Syncbak founder and CEO Jack Perry said in a statement. “By integrating Nielsen’s technology, we support the economy that has served broadcasters and advertisers for decades.”
Syncbak is backed by CBS, the National Association of Broadcasters and three former NBC executives. Its technology is used by more than 150 television stations in the U.S., offering an industry-approved alternative to the threat posed by Aereo.
That online startup, backed by IAC Chairman Barry Diller, captures local broadcast signals and delivers the TV programming — via the Internet — to its subscribers. Aereo has argued that its novel approach to delivering TV shows, via thousands of tiny antennas, exempts it from the need to pay what’s known as retransmission fees for the programming.
CBS, NBC, Fox, ABC, PBS and others are suing Aereo for copyright infringement, in a case that is scheduled to be argued later this month in the U.S. Supreme Court.
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