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Neilsen Media Research to Track Video Game Use

By | October 23, 2006 12:13 pm

Well of course it’s a sign of the times that NBC Universal decided to cut back on its expensive early primetime scripted comedies – and free resources up, not just for more, cheaper so-called reality programming and the like, but also for a whole new drive in web-based material. The more digitally aware observers of “old media” have simply been surprised it took so long to start happening at the national TV network level.

I guess the clearest expression of the huge turnaround upon which the General Electric-owned network is now embarked, like a slow-moving oil tanker, came from the News president at NBC, Steve Capus:

“We’ve been a TV business that dabbles in digital. Now, we’re positioning as a news content-production center going forward that happens to do television.”

But in a way this is all old news – it’s been incontrovertibly obvious for quite a while that the TV-as-family-hearth has gone the way of the fire-in-the-cave, and society’s new flickering writing on the wall is actually on the desk-top, or the video iPod, or the video-capable cell-phone.

But one other device needs to be mentioned, plus one associated media development (announced the same day as NBC’s massive cuts, as it happens) stands out as a bellwether of enormous change – even though it may not yet be generally recognized as such.

Neilsen Media Research, the company previously best known for traditional TV audience measurement, now plans track consumer use, for video games.

They are launching an electronic rating service to track who is playing what game. The data will be collected from 10,000 sample households, just as for Nielsen’s famous television ratings.

Subscribers to their service, mainly advertisers and video game makers, will get a weekly ratings reports, and charts showing the most popular games, as well as information about the type of console and the genre of the game.

Their system, set for launch by the middle of next year, is designed to work on the current and next-generation line of consoles from Microsoft., Sony Corp. and Nintendo.

Reaching the lucrative demographic of video game players has been something of a holy grail in the industry, and ads have of course been appearing within games for some time. But now, according to Nielsen, advertisers will get a precise way to measure their reach.

Jeff Herrmann, vice president of Nielsen’s wireless and interactive services division, said he expects the system will drive advertising investment and help to convert video game advertising “from discretionary, to essential”.

The ad you might have seen in a break between 8 and 9pm on NBC, you may well see popping up any time of the day or night when you’re intent on a battle or race on your new PS3 from Sony.

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