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Cable boxes identify bargain and lemon commercial slots

Second-by-second data allows analysts to get a closer look at viewing habits

6:57pm, August 4, 2009

WASHINGTON — Advertisers who shell out big bucks for an ad that runs during a popular television show might be buying a lemon, a new study finds. In the future, detailed data collected from digital cable boxes may help advertisers bargain-hunt for the best deals, researchers suggested August 3 at the Joint Statistical Meetings.

Prices for commercial spots are primarily determined by the size of the audience that watches a particular show. Ads that run during blockbusters like Grey’s Anatomy and American Idol are much pricier than ads during less popular shows. But a show’s audience size may not be the best way to judge commercial viewership, study author David Schweidel of the University of Wisconsin–Madison said.

Schweidel analyzed the viewing habits of people in a large West Coast metropolitan area. Data collected from cable boxes each second during prime time uncovered what shows (and commercials) people were watchin

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