Wink, Experian in iTV Data Deal

Wink Communications is teaming up with consumer data giant Experian to share information about television audiences who view interactive TV advertising and programming.

The data contains geographic and demographic information on the 5.5 million households equipped with Wink-supported set-top boxes — including adults’ age and gender, household income, ethnicity, education, and location by Designated Market Area. The Alameda, Calif.-based company’s services are deployed in a handful of markets serviced by cable partners including AOL Time Warner , Cox Communications and AT&T .

Wink plans to use the information in reports to advertisers, agencies and programming producers — which could serve as the basis of a Nielsen-like tool for measuring television campaigns’ reach. The firm also said the information from Experian, which handles credit reports and markets CRM and data analysis services, could be used to enhance data-collection done through iTV surveys and responses to ads.

Wink also said it’s able to use the data to segment and target specific audiences with special ads.

“Wink is using Experian data to develop solutions that allow their customers to communicate more effectively,” said Bethany Stanley, senior marketing manager at the Marketing Solutions division of Experian, which has its U.S. offices in Costa Mesa, Calif. “With greater access to information, marketers can create campaigns that are designed to optimize customer interaction.”

The move ups the ante for interactive television providers, which have been promising ways to identify, glean information about and target specific audiences.

“We are pleased to respond to the needs of our advertising partners with the introduction of these new demographic and ad enhancement personalization products, bringing new consumer data and validation of audience reach from their interactive campaigns,” said Bryan McGuirk, president of programming and advertising sales at Wink.

But efforts to collect data on and track interactive television users remain controversial. Last year, the Center for Digital Democracy, a consumer advocacy group, criticized the enhanced tracking possible under new iTV systems and asked for legislation extending existing cable privacy safeguards to interactive television. iTV players, meanwhile, contend that existing law and industry self-regulation will prove sufficient to protect viewers’ privacy.

In its privacy policy, Wink states that it won’t release personally identifiable customer information to third parties, unless the consumer authorizes it to do so, such as when the person makes a purchase or requests more information from an advertiser.

Earlier this year, privacy advocates came out in droves to protest a court order that required digital video recorder manufacturer SONICblue to begin tracking and sharing information on its users’ activities in response to a lawsuit from television producers. A federal court later overturned the order.

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