Kelly Scott Madison

Unlocking Set-Top Box Data



How are recent shifts in the industry affecting advertisers?

What is a set-top box?

A set-top box (STB) is an information device that enables content from a cable or satellite signal to be displayed on a television. Nearly every cable operator-provided STB in the U.S. is leased to the subscribing household, representing an estimated $19.5 billion revenue stream for cable multiple-system operators (MSO) every year. The term “STB” generally refers to the box that delivers linear television to a home and does not encompass internet-based, over-the-top devices like Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV and Google Chrome. However, recent developments in technology and government regulations may expand the traditional STB’s capabilities to gather information across all content delivered through online and linear platforms. 

What is set-top box data?

STB data is second by second viewership information collected in more than 40 million households nationwide through operators such as Cablevision, DirecTV, Dish Network, Comcast, Time Warner Cable and AT&T Uverse. Rentrak and Kantar audience measurement data represents actual television viewership collected through partnerships with these participating providers’ STBs.  

Though STB data has been actively collected for quite some time, linking the information with third-party data has only become available in the past decade. Furthermore, as recently as 2011, STB penetration was only at a third of what it is today, limiting the ability to effectively target audiences at scale. As of February 2016, U.S. STB ownership had reached 64 percent (up from 45 percent in 2012) and time-shifted viewing using a DVR constitutes an increasingly large percentage of overall television viewing hours. Currently, more than 60 percent of all time-shifted television viewing is performed through a STB rather than via online programming outlets, representing a major increase in the STB market. All of these new data capabilities have culminated into one important...

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