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US broadcasters and media agencies in TV ratings shake-up

NEW YORK - US broadcasters and media agencies are forming a consortium aimed at speeding up the process of developing a new TV ratings system that suits the digital age, according to reports.

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According to the Financial Times, NBC Universal, Time Warner, CBS, Viacom, News Corporation, Discovery and Disney are joining WPP Group's GroupM and Publicis Groupe's Starcom Media Vest in a consortium that will be operational next month.

It also reports that Procter & Gamble and AT&T, two of the top three advertisers in the US, will also be part of the effort.

The move comes amid frustration at the time it is taking Nielsen, the research company that dominates television ratings provision, to come up with a system that brings together all the ways that people watch television now, including online and on mobile devices.

At the moment, Nielsen does measure individual usage on internet and mobile but the industry wants a single source measurement.

The FT reports that the consortium will be appointing research contracts as early as the fourth quarter of the year.

Tess Alps, who is chief executive of UK commercial television industry body Thinkbox, welcomed the development.

Alps said: "Viewers don't care how the programmes are delivered, the technology is increasingly invisible and it's the programmes that matter. But advertisers want to see a total aggregate audience for the same content.

"What we all need is a technology neutral measurement system. Whether we'll get it or not is a different question."

In the UK, television audiences are currently measured by AGB Nielsen for the industry consortium Broadcasters Audience Research Board (Barb), though a new contract will transfer the majority of the work to WPP-owned TNS in 2010.

The system currently incorporates all programming in the 'linear' television schedule, including that recorded on services such as Sky+ or Virgin Media's V+ and watched within seven days of broadcast. However, it does not include television watched on laptops from services such as or 4OD.

**Read more of Tess Alps on TV on The Thinkbox Blog on Brand Republic**

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