Nielsen can now track users’ TV habits in real time via an ACR system that analyzes video on-screen. The system is currently being rolled out to 40 million Smart TVs from 8 manufacturers, according to Variety.
Based on Gracenote
In 2016, Nielsen acquired Gracenote that provides the TV program information found in many TV guides. Through Gracenote integration in Smart TVs, Nielsen is rolling out a system dubbed Grabix, which is based on ACR (Automatic Content Recognition).
ACR functions as a video engine by constantly analyzing video on the screen. That is why ACR can analyze video regardless of type or source. It will even recognize video coming in via HDMI sources as well as your private vacation photos and videos. It can transmit this data to Nielsen as long as your Smart TV is connected to the internet.
Nielsen claims that it can collect data from more than 40 million Smart TVs from eight manufacturers. At launch, Grabix will collect viewing data from 3 million Smart TVs. Viewing data is being collected in real time, meaning that companies and third partiers who have access to Nielsen’s data can see how viewers react to commercials, new TV shows, and other scenarios.
ACR is widely deployed
ACR technology is not new and is already implemented in many TVs. In 2017, US-based Vizio was caught collecting viewing data for targeted ads and other purposes without users' consent. The company eventually settled with the FTC. EU has most recently implemented new stricter laws under GDPR that require companies to always seek user consent before they can collect this type of usage data.
Nielsen says that it will seek consent with users before collecting user data via its ACR technology, and added that data will be anonymized. It is not clear what will happen if users decline to give their consent or if certain functions of the TV – such as the TV guide that relies on Gracenote – will be deactivated.
Besides ACR, Nielsen is using methods such as audio recognition and recording via smartphone apps. These apps recognize key words from a TV in the living room, which can help Nielsen track how many viewers are watching a particular Netflix show. Netflix has refused to share viewing data with Nielsen and other third parties.
Using a modern Smart TV typically involves collection of viewing data. This data is being used to target advertisement across platforms, statistics, and other purposes.