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OPINION: Unlocking the value of the RPD set-top box

Nick Burfitt, global director of audience targeting, Kantar Media explains why pay-TV operators are embracing Return Path Data

In Asia, Return Path Data (RPD) services are now a reality and the understanding of subscribers is being taken to a new level. This year Kantar Media celebrates 10 years of working with pay TV operators in this way — and we’re proud to have been the first research company to have done so.

In July, pay-TV provider Astro, in partnership with Kantar Media, launched the first Audience Measurement service in Malaysia to use RPD from subscribers’ set top boxes. The proprietary system, Dynamic Television Audience Measurement (DTAM), has a targeted panel size of 5000 to accurately represent viewing behaviour of not only linear channels but also of HD channels, recorded and on demand viewing. DTAM will also be able to track viewership of advertising spots across all 180 Astro channels.

In Hong Kong now TV, part of PCCW, has agreed a similar deal. CSM Media Research, part of Kantar Media is setting up the Return Path Rating Service (RPR). It will be a cross platform measurement system also using return path data technology. The service will record data on a second by second basis when panelists view now TV at home, via set-top boxes, or on the go with now TV’s companion apps.

In Singapore, SingTel advertising announced earlier this year the introduction of RPD technology as a part of SingTel mio TV’s new television audience measurement platform. To deliver the highest level of accuracy, Return Path Data is captured for the entire SingTel mio TV customer base.

In all three countries the TV operators were looking for ever deeper insight into their subscribers viewing behaviour. Loke Kheng Tham, PCCW’s EVP of pay-TV, told me, “The RPR Service will more accurately reflect the aggregate viewership of now TV content across different platforms.”

So it’s no wonder more and more pay-TV operators, particularly in Asia, are looking to Kantar Media’s return path data capabilities as a great way to bridge this information gap.

When I spoke to Anthony Shiner, SingTel Advertising’s chief revenue officer, he said, “RPD technology has already provided us with a series of insights, including time spent per day watching pay-TV and the most watched channels during the course of each week. The numbers indicate that, apart from sports, widely thought of as the strongest performing segment, there is strong interest in kids and local ethnic content as well.”

There is huge potential for this type of audience measurement both in areas where TAM services are less developed but also in mature markets where broadcasters like Sky Germany have gained significant commercial benefits. Either way return path data offers pay-TV operators great opportunities to fully understand subscriber viewing habits across all activities and devices , in much greater detail than ever before.