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Nielsen, the leading provider of television audience measurement in the US, is extending its service to monitor what video games are played on the TV set.

The move is expected to expand the potential for placing advertising in video games and provide accurate breakdowns of how much people are playing games on their TVs compared to watching programmes.

“We’re focusing on the new opportunities of the next-generation consoles as they become networked,” said Jeff Herrmann, vice-president of Nielsen’s newly formed Wireless and Interactive Services division.

“A reliable and accurate standard of measurement for video gaming will drive advertising investment in this medium and convert video game advertising from a discretionary choice to a must-have option.”

Nielsen is modifying its existing People Meter technology installed in 10,000 homes to monitor game-playing. This essentially consists of a microphone close to the TV speaker and software that listens for codes sent by TV networks identifying the programme being watched.

If codes are not sent, “audio signature matching” that matches the sound against a database of programmes can still identify it. Nielsen will add a database of video games so that consoles attached to the TV set can also be monitored from mid-2007.

This means a top-20 style rating system for most-played video games can be assembled similar to the existing TV show ratings.

Users in Nielsen households also have to sign on when they turn on the TV, meaning demographics of viewers and players can be measured as well.

Nielsen is also working on technology that can identify which adverts are seen in video games and for how long. It has been holding talks with Massive, recently acquired by Microsoft, and IGA – the two leading video game advertising networks.

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