Rentrak – A Powerful Viewer Tracking Tool


From a firm that was engaged purely in providing home entertainment, Rentrak has since evolved into a provider of media measurement services.  Its state-of-the-art technology enables Rentrak to keep track of all viewer information 24/7 and in real-time.


Formerly known as National Video, Rentrak made waves back in the 70s and 80s by developing the pay-per-view type of video rental, which enables viewers to rent instead of buy movies.

In 2008, Rentrak acquired Nielsen EDI, which provided the impetus for Rentrak to engage in what is now its cash cow — media data measurement.

By 2011, the company had more than 200 station clients that used its StationView Essentials product to measure daily media usage.  Presently, four out of five television mega-networks have subscribed to Rentrak’s rating services.

Success Factor

What is Rentrak’s success factor?  The company has developed applications that enable tracking of viewer behavior from over 20 million televisions in 210 markets, and across many platforms (box office, home video, and television).  Once it derives the data, Rentrak then publishes charts showing the ranks of programs, movies, DVD rentals and sales, and video games sales.  These charts are published weekly and show the top ten of each category.

Rentrak’s data is used by local television stations and networks, movie studios, cable and satellite TV providers, media agencies, and Video on Demand providers. Working with Rentrak gives these various stakeholders valuable information to aid them in their operational and marketing strategies.

Relationships and Agreements

The company has expanding agreements with major television stations such as CBS, NBC, Lilly Broadcasting, Gannett Broadcasting, and some small independent networks based in California and Missouri.  Recently, Rentrak also signed an agreement with Google to help advertisers improve their advertising placements and timing with search queries. Apart from existing contracts with TV and box-office clients, Rentrak has also gained commitments from some 2016 presidential candidates who planned to use Rentrak’s ratings for their election strategies.

Rentrak vs. Nielsen

Although Rentrak’s biggest competitor is Nielsen, the methodologies used by both companies are actually different, especially in terms of extensiveness and efficiency.

Nielsen asks its respondents to use electronic boxes and use paper diaries to record their TV viewing activities. And its consumer information is limited to viewer age and gender.  Data is extracted by Nielsen through random survey samples of American TV viewers.  Some broadcast companies who are already clients of Nielsen have also taken on Rentrak.

On the other hand, Rentrak derives data from cable and satellite set-top boxes. Far more than just viewer age and gender, Rentrak can match TV ratings with other consumer data such as spending patterns, future aspirations, and even political affiliations.  This competitive edge is invaluable to advertisers who can then use the consumer data to plan out their advertising strategies, particularly the timing and frequency of their TV ads, thus hitting the right target markets.

Rentrak may be considered a child in the media measurement industry compared to its rival, but it expects growth of about 36-39 percent for 2016.

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