RPD specialisation

RPD (return-path data) are viewing and other related measurement data collected by software on pay-TV STBs (set-top boxes) and sent by Internet or phone to the pay-TV operator. Usually, unlike in TAM, no opt-in or sample recruitment is needed as the data collection is authorised in the subscriber’s user agreement. Typical sample sizes are far larger than in classical TAM, often reaching six digits rather than four or five for TAM; in some operations with an integrated return path (such as where the operator also offers Internet access, regardless of whether it’s purchased) or where broadband services such as VOD are available and subscribers are motivated to connect their STBs to the Internet, the percentage of the operator’s universe (installed base) STBs that regularly sends in data can be high enough to be a census more than a sample. The costs per STB or in the field part of an RPD operation are much lower than in TAM and sometimes trivial. Costs of processing the data can also be controlled much better than in a dedicated operation, although a more complex technological environment would result in higher costs.
RPD can include DVR playback (and, in some systems, recording) with equal data to those for realtime viewing, permitting the two to be unified for reporting. RPD can also be more easily integrated with VOD consumption, if certain requirements are followed, as well as with OTT viewing. RPD is thus the only approach that can be used, albeit at considerable effort, to achieve measurement of all viewing, all channels on all screens at all times, including the “long tail” of continuing but diminishing long-term interest in specific programmers. It is the only means of determining the pay-TV operator’s overall programming ROI (return on investment) and the only means of measuring video consumption that is in any way future-proofed.