For almost a decade Nielsen Media Research center has been developing Active/Passive Metering System or A/P Metering System to measure the new media (modern digital technologies) more accurately than the traditional rating system.
As Jim Spaeth (President, Advertising Research Foundation) puts it, earlier the crux had been to identify who are watching but as the equipments have developed, the crux is to identify what those people are watching.

The problem is growing every other day as new channels are launching with different channel lineups and lots of viewers are using high definition television. And thus the traditional rating systems are not considered powerful enough to offer the best rating solution.

In this situation, Nielsen Media Research Center started developing the new rating system – Active/Passive Metering System where they have spent more than $100 million to make the metering system more reliable. The deadline for completing the metering system is 17th February 2009 and media experts believe that it would simply revolutionize media monitoring system and would provide great insight into broadcast media. It would also help the media buyers and sellers to make a better decision on media spending for a better return on investment.

What happens in this process?

The company requests the broadcasts, syndicators and cable operators to install the program encoding equipments in their existing setup. To put it simply, this meter sends an active video code during program transmission into the television. The active signals received from those codes help the platform to electronically identify the metrics and assign related value. However, there is also an audio code that keeps track if the video code is missing or not working for some reasons.

According to an advertising magazine, Nielsen is Testing A/P Meter in Digital Wilmington – an all-digital broadcast environment. However, this is not the first test they are running to make the platform flawless. They have been testing the platform in their lab for a long time. The only difference is that this is conducted in real world environment to make sure that everything is running well.

For this test, Nielsen has already provided encoders (both analog and digital signals) to the station. Apart from that they have also created a “super site” to collect signals. This information would help the researchers to understand and monitor those signals during switchover. This would also help researcher to find out if the signals and reporting is consistent or not throughout the transmission process.

As Susan Whiting (President and CEO of NMR) put it in their annual client meeting in Miami – “this is an exciting technological milestone”. Undoubtedly, the whole media world especially the advertisers are looking forward to hear about the success of this reporting system for better return on their advertisement spending.