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Nielsen Media Research is funding a $3.5m year-long study to observe how people actually consume media on both traditional and emerging video platforms inside and outside their homes.

The project (which was initiated in 2006: ) is backed by the Council for Research Excellence (CRE) – an independent forum of media industry research experts created by Nielsen – and will be conducted jointly by Indiana-based Ball State University’s Centre for Media Design, and New York-based brand and media metrics agency Sequent Partners.

Using a technique known as ‘shadow-the-consumer’ research, around 450 participants will be followed by researchers making notes about when and how they watch, listen, surf, read, play video games, download text and talk on the phone.

A panel of 350 consumers will be monitored for a full day in the spring and autumn by ‘trackers’ who will record (via electronic handheld note-taking devices) the use of 17 different media as people use them. A further 100 users will be offered the option to purchase discounted Slingboxes, DVRs and other media units, and this sample will be used as a predictor of how new media devices will affect future viewing patterns.

Results will be released in stages later this year. ‘This landmark study will give us a blueprint of consumers’ access to media content across all screens, platforms and locations throughout their waking day,’ said Shari Anne Brill, SVP Director of Programming at Carat and Chairwoman of CRE’s media consumption and engagement committee. ‘The findings will also help to identify (and possibly close) the gaps in Nielsen’s video measurement systems,’ she added.

In addition to funding the exercise, Nielsen Media Research will help recruit the consumer panels, which will be made up of former participants in Nielsen’s national TV ratings panel.

Mike Bloxham, Director of Insight and Research at Ball State’s Centre for Media Design commented: ‘The breadth and depth of the insights delivered by our observational method will make a real and lasting contribution to the industry’s understanding of how media consumption and use is evolving. Findings will provide an important platform for analysis and debate as the committee pursues its mission to inform future best practices in cross-platform video measurement.’

In December, the CRE was granted a further $2.5m to enable it to conduct the research on video audience measurement, adding to the $7.5m already donated ( ).

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