DirecTV awarded patent for real-time ratings system

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DirecTV (Nasdaq: DTV) was issued a U.S. patent Tuesday for technology that would allow the satellite TV provider to use data collected from subscriber set-tops to provide ratings to broadcasters and advertisers in real time.

"A need exists in the art for an inexpensive, accurate system and method for automatically monitoring the viewing habits of viewers of direct broadcast satellite television programming," DirecTV writes in the description for U.S. patent No. 8,099,749.

The DirecTV patent describes a system that relies on viewership data that is stored on a smartcard contained in a set-top box which can be transmitted to DirecTV via modems connected to its receivers. The company notes that the invention relates to "systems and methods for measuring an audience for a telecast in real time."

While DirecTV hasn't said how it plans to use the patent, the company already provides viewing data from its set-tops for use in TV ratings. In 2008, DirecTV stuck a deal with TNS Media Research to create a ratings service called DIRECTView that relies on set-top data collected fro 100,000 DirecTV subscribers. Last July, TNS parent Kantar Media signed an agreement with Nielsen to supply it with ratings from its DIRECTView service that the company plans to combine with its National People Meter panel data.

In addition to using the technology to give advertisers more information about the programs DirecTV viewers are watching, DirecTV may be able to use data it collects from set-tops to recommend TV shows to viewers based on their viewing habits. Rival Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSA) has said it is studying how it may be able to offer program recommendations based on viewing data.

For more:
- See the DirecTV patent

Related articles:
Nielsen to expand set-top data collection in 2012
Comcast to offer personalized TV recommendations