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Radio Show: Nielsen Preps “Enhanced CBET”

Launch for improved encoding coming by end of year

An hour after 25/Seven systems wrapped up its presentation on the newest versions of its Voltair watermark processor, Nielsen packed the presentation area on the NAB Show floor even tighter for its own PPM update at the Radio Show Thursday afternoon.

Nielsen Chief Engineer Arum Ramaswamy says the company is upgrading its CBET watermark encoding system to make coding more robust and more easily detectable in challenging acoustic environments, all without creating audible artifacts. “Every client gets the same benefit without any user controls, so it’s a uniform benefit in how we apply this,” Ramaswamy said. He said the development of “enhanced CBET” has been aided by feedback from client stations and external auditing firms.

Feedback from the original CBET system showed Nielsen that there was too much variability in how well watermarks could be decoded in different listening environments. Ramaswamy says the new version is much more robust, needing as little as a single “hit” in one minute for data to be decoded and a station to get its listening credited. Testing of the enhanced system was conducted in several “non-currency” PPM markets, and then in parallel with standard CBET at 19 stations in the Washington and Baltimore markets, using a second layer of encoding.

Nielsen’s Beth Webb says the enhanced CBET shows a 15% increase in AQH persons, giving at least a 0.1 point gain in AQH ratings in approximately 40% of the cases studied.

While 25-Seven Systems promoted the new Voltair 2.0 and forthcoming 2.2 versions as providing enhanced monitoring capabilities for broadcasters, Nielsen kicked off its session by announcing that it will deliver its own monitoring device to all of its PPM client stations next year. Ramaswamy acknowledged that PPM clients have asked for better monitoring ability.

The enhanced CBET system will be launched in two markets, Washington and Baltimore, later in October following further testing and review. Enhanced CBET will then be rolled out nationally starting in November and concluding in December. A client webinar is scheduled for next week, Oct. 8, to provide more information ahead of a broader rollout.

After his own session earlier, 25-Seven President Geoff Steadman watched Nielsen’s presentation from the back of the room. “It kind of sounds like a Voltair,” Steadman observed about enhanced CBET, though he acknowledged he hasn’t seen any details about the new Nielsen system.

“If they’re going to improve their system,” he said, “I think that’s great.”

Will Nielsen’s new monitoring device make the $15,000 Voltair unit redundant? Steadman is skeptical Nielsen can roll out its boxes as quickly as promised. “They’re talking about something in 2016, and we’ve got one now,” Steadman noted. “There’s trade-show ready and there’s customer-ready. It’s not a trivial job or everyone would do it.”