Comcast reportedly in talks to sell set-top data

Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA) is in talks with media conglomerates and audience-measurement firms about licensing the viewer data on its set-tops, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The paper said Comcast is talking to Walt Disney Company's ESPN, Time Warner Inc.'s Turner Broadcasting and Discovery Communications about packaging the MSO's viewer data into "dashboards" that could be used for the purpose of more targeted advertising.

Comcast is also involving its own programming arm, NBCUniversal, in these discussions. 

Comcast is said to have already rebuffed an offer from Nielsen, which was reportedly willing to pay around $100 million for an exclusive license for its data. Comcast finished the second quarter with just over 22.3 million video subscribers, giving it the biggest installed base of set-tops in the cable business. 

With TV audiences dispersing across mobile and other IP-based platforms, research companies and their programmer clients are trying to get their hands on pay-TV set-tops, which have data on where and when viewers are watching shows. 

"Having more precise set-top data is what will power better monetization of premium TV inventory," said Tracey Scheppach, executive vice president of ad-buying firm Starcom MediaVest. "Money has moved online because they have better analytics and targeting. TV is way behind in both of those places."

With the $70 billion U.S. TV advertising business threatened by declining viewership and competition from digital platforms, cable companies like Comcast see their data as a valuable tool for advertisers to optimize their campaigns. 

"We do believe it's an unprecedented set of information," said Sam Schwartz, Comcast's chief business development officer, told WSJ.

Currently, Cablevision (NYSE: CVC) is the only cable company that's been aggressive in selling its set-top viewer data. In May, for example, the company announced a deal to sell its set-top information to ESPN.

For more:
- read this Wall Street Journal story (sub. req.)

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