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Miso Wants To Provide More Accurate TV Ratings
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Tom Cheredar   |  
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I am one of the few people among my acquaintances that is utterly uninterested in using location-based check-in services like Foursquare, Gowalla, and Facebook Places. When I’m out and about I tend to make a solid effort to experience the real world, since I’m usually sitting at home watching movies or television shows.

Miso — a service that’s been described as Foursquare for couch potatoes — makes perfect sense to me. It allows for users to “check-in” when they are watching a movie, television show, or web program (such as the entire lineup from Revision3). And just like Foursquare, users can attain special badges for checking in often or for specific shows.

You can comment on each show, see what your friends are watching or have been watching, and basically it allows you to share the experience with others in a unique way that wouldn’t bother anyone not watching.

And while creating a new social element to viewing is all fine and dandy, Miso has multiple motives, according to CEO Somrat Niyogi, who was interviewed about his company on last week’s episode of The Drill Down. The most notable of those motives involves creating valuable statistics that could challenge companies in the business of producing ratings like industry leader Nielsen.

Right now Nielsen is the industry standard in terms of rating a show by viewers and identifying specific groups by gender, race, and age. But their method of collection is based on archaic practices of giving out free cable boxes to people all over the country and recording everything they watch. They take this sample of the population and use a formula to predict what the entire country’s viewing habits are.

Miso has the opportunity to capture real viewing habits in real-time. On the homepage, they feature a “Currently Trending” sidebar showing the top ten viewed programs by its users. Since last night kicked off premiere week for all the major broadcast stations, the trending bar had some very interesting results. I decided to take a screen shot right after the first hour of programming:

The new show from HBO, Boardwalk Empire, pretty much dominated everything and eventually reached beyond 4,000, while How I Met Your Mother surprised me by taking the second spot. What you aren’t seeing is how both Chuck and House beat out whatever NFL football and Dancing With The Stars. Now, this doesn’t mean football and Dancing didn’t achieve a larger audience than the programs listed as trending above them on Miso, but it does paint a very telling story about the viewing priorities of tech savvy smartphone users.

But really the more I watched the trending list, it became even more apparent how futile it was to try and pinpoint a show’s worth within a few specific timeframes. With On Demand cable services, TiVo (as well as other DVR devices), and Hulu, you can’t really treat a new episode as finished until at the very least a week after it’s aired. This was true as the numbers for both House and Chuck steadily rose from 2,000 to over 4,000 check-ins as the pre-recorded audience merged with those on the west coast. Monday Night Football also rose to the top trending spot hours later, but right now there is no clarification on how trends are determined.

Miso is far from having a robust method of collecting accurate data from viewing audiences. That much is obvious. But, with additional features that show where you’re watching a program (GPS for set-top boxes, URLs for online content) and more sharing features… it could easily evolve into a new standard for how programs are rated.

[NOTE: I am a co-host on the podcast mentioned above, The Drill Down, which interviewed Miso’s CEO.]

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