Networks Need to Forget About Nielsen

This past week brought the announcement that a consortium of industry players — NBC Universal, Time Warner, News Corp, CBS Corp, and many more — were banding together to give Nielsen Media Research a run for their money.

Why are they bothering when digital TV offers so many other ways to secure the platform’s future?

Plenty of people watch TV so let’s not just yet send out the sympathy card. But what the industry has not done in a long time is look inside the digital spectrum to find more money.

Jeff Zucker should try to shake loose some of those digital dollars from PSIP data (Program and System Information Protocol).

PSIP is the data section on the backside of all digital content. Nielsen Ratings’ codes for each TV station are carried inside PSIP data that can be read by special set-top boxes and decoders.

In the 1990’s many of the titans of broadcast waxed poetically about PSIP. How this data element could be leveraged for different types of consumer facing services — like custom camera selection for ballgames — but so far Nielsen, and program guide info, are the main services carried on PSIP.

I believe a big issue for all the programmers is also the lack of integration of most of their technologies, including trafficking and billing, to PSIP.

Also, the networks’ stewardship systems are getting increasingly harder to reconcile against the actual audience delivery. This contributes to the general feeling of malaise towards broadcast TV innovation.

The networks should focus in on what people like about the Internet and try to bring those features into the television platform. I am not talking about putting the Twitter logo next to Katie Couric during the news.

Instead, what are the benefits that the Internet provides to people that could be translated onto the television platform and then hooked into the data section of the spectrum?

This newly announced consortium should let their ideas for ratings competition fizzle and instead focus on solving some of the gating factors associated with getting new services tied to PSIP launched.

Now that the digital conversion is behind us networks should focus their technology teams onto PSIP. With a dedicated effort innovation could occur that changes the game for all of us.

If the industry is successful in satisfying the consumer’s appetite for interactivity — by tying Internet functionality to the spectrum — then budgets could some day come back to original programming.