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Google in Your TV

Google is everywhere. From your web mail to your web searches and now even tracking your location on a map, the ubiquity of Google is something that many of us have just started taking for granted when we go online. But something a lot of people don’t realize is that Google is also tapping into our information when we’re offline. Case in point: Google TV Ads, a part of the company’s AdWords channel gives Google access to DVR viewership data from millions of set-top boxes here in the United States.

The Google TV Ads program, officially launched back in April 2008, lets customers create television campaigns on the networks and dayparts they choose. As with any TV advertising spot, proper placement of an ad is a decision that’s made based on a number of different criteria – including demographics about those watching.  That demographic data comes from a partnership with Nielsen Co., who entered a multi-year strategic relationship with Google back in October 2007 in which Nielsen provides demographic data to the internet giant so TV Ads customers will know the makeup of the various television audiences.

Now Google’s deep dive into U.S. TV viewing habits will go even further. In a partnership with Dish Network, also a TV Ads partner since the launch, Google will be able to give their customers data involving which programs are time-shifted versus which are not. The time-shifted viewership data breaks the TV ad impressions down into “live,” “live + same day,” “live + 1 day,” “live + 3 day,” and “live + 7 day” categories. This additional data will be provided free of charge to advertisers.

Unlike with Nielsen, who samples a small, opt-in portion of the TV-watching American population, Google’s DVR data comes from EchoStar’s Dish Network. The data is “anonymized,” of course, but it’s entirely possible that most Dish customers don’t know they’re providing data to Google at all. The metrics reported reflect viewership of the specific TV ad commercials, says Google, not just general program viewership. That can only mean that Dish is providing Google with details on who fast forwards through the commercials versus who does not.

Google isn’t just handing over the data they’re retrieving from the DVRs, either. They are actively analyzing it, too. According to the company’s blog post, they “love digging into data” and have been “excited to investigate how time-shifted viewing differs from live viewing.” Their initial findings suggest that niche programming tends to get a disproportionate percentage of its viewing through DVR.

At the moment, Google TV Ads are sold on the Dish Network for some of NBC Universal’s cable channels, Bloomberg, and the Hallmark Channel. Dish Network is the U.S.’s third largest pay-TV provider.

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