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Walking a Fine Line with Set-Top Data

The topic of how operators use viewing data from set-tops has long been a controversial one. Despite the widespread use of user tracking technologies online – or perhaps because of them, and the resultant privacy debates – service providers have been reluctant to pursue aggressive set-top data mining strategies. However, as Todd Spangler at Multichannel News notes, that doesn’t mean they’ve avoided data mining altogether. They’re just walking a very fine line to keep users, government, and advertisers happy.

On a less controversial note, there are very basic geographic viewing trends that are easy and useful to track as operators determine the best uses for switched digital video. After writing last week about the resurgence of SDV, I continued digging to see what I could find out from actual deployments. Not surprisingly, providers make decisions about which channels to switch on a market-by-market basis. There are certain rules of thumb, like the farther south you travel, the fewer Spanish channels are moved to a switched tier. But operators sometimes tweak their SDV settings on a weekly basis depending on the habits of any given market. Viewing data certainly comes in handy as service providers try to maximize the amount of bandwidth they can re-farm for more HD content today, and other advanced applications in the future. And that’s something everybody wants: subscribers, operators, and advertisers alike.

Here are a few more examples from the Multichannel article on how set-top metrics are being used today.

  • Time Warner Cable, Charter L.A., Dish and others are providing internal set-top data as a sales tool for local ad reps
  • Simulmedia analyzes anonymous data from 15 million set-tops to improve the effectiveness of tune-in programming spots
  • TRA’s 370,000-household database cross-references set-top data from TiVo and others with purchasing data from retailers’ frequent- shopper cards
  • Canoe Ventures will track viewer response to request for information spots, set to debut in June