Nielsen Adjusting Ratings Measurements

Hollywood may be finally ready to catch up to how viewers consume content in the age of streaming video and other on-line services.

According to the New York Times, the Nielsen service is considering adjusting the way it measures ratings to include those who watch shows on-line as “television households.”  The move has the potential  to add to the sample of homes that are rated by the company.  The company pledged to measure TV viewership on iPads and other mobile devices in the future.

The new plan comes after two years of study and decision by the Nielsen Company.  While some networks use DVR ratings to compile and adjust overnight ratings, many network executives felt like actual eyeballs and viewers for a show were lost by not counting numbers from iTunes, Hulu and other official viewer outlets.  Many times some shows have a solid following and trend well on social media sites like Twitter without that following necessarily translating into Nielsen numbers.

Nielsen’s decision won’t have an immediate impact on the ratings system that governs billions of dollars in advertising decisions, because just 0.6 percent of households in the United States meet the new description.

Right now, most Internet views of their shows are not counted in the TV ratings that serve as a kind of nationwide popularity contest, either because there are no ads attached (see Netflix) or because the ads are not exactly the same as the ones that appeared on the original TV broadcast (see Hulu). But new services are popping up that stream TV shows and ads without the need for cable.

The new definition “will include those households who are receiving broadband Internet and putting it onto a television set,” said Pat McDonough, the senior vice president for insights and analysis at Nielsen. Currently a “television set” is the flat-screen kind, but in the future a tablet computer like an iPad could also be considered a TV set.

The new definition also applies to homes that have cable but also have extra TV sets that are hooked up only to PlayStations, Rokus or other Internet devices.

The changes emanated from a measurement committee comprising Nielsen executives and two dozen representatives from networks and advertising firms. The committee met in New York on Tuesday and discussed Nielsen’s proposals. They were subsequently obtained by The Hollywood Reporter.

The proposals, Nielsen said in a statement, were necessary to “more completely reflect media consumption.”


  1. Joe Klemmer says

    While counting streaming media is a good inclusive move, it’s the DVR numbers that are more critical. My family almost never watches anything live other than sports broadcasts.

    • Laith Preston says

      An excellent point, we’ve been a DVR/stream family ourselves for a while now.

      Another good question is why when there is plenty of useable data being collected the ratings system is still based on a selected few households.

  2. says

    Nielsen started measuring television ratings in 1950.

    1950: US population: 150 million
    1980: Number of Nielsen households nationwide: ??

    1980: US population: 226.5 million
    1980: Number of Nielsen households nationwide: 25,000

    2012: US population: 314 million
    2012: Number of Nielsen households nationwide: 25,000

    Even going by the numbers that there are only 115 million homes with TV sets, someone’s math skills need help. How can both the networks and advertisers rationalize who’s watching what off a sampling of less than 1/10th of 1 percent of the TV watching public?

    And why are any of the advertisers resistant to knowing how many people are really watching the shows and the ads they’re paying $250k per minute or more for? Wouldn’t they want to know that they’re getting the eyes on the ads that they think they’re paying for UP FRONT, or if they are overpaying for fewer viewers than promised?

    I’d love to find out how many people have cut the cord within the past decade.

    • Laith Preston says

      Yeah, and you know that the metrics are there. I seem to recall that within a day of the Superbowl they had rewind numbers and such so they knew the most watched and re-watched commercials.

      You can’t tell me that they don’t know these numbers, so why do they continue to ignore them?

    • says

      They’ve been able to collate those numbers for years. Remember how they were able to include numbers on how many people with DVR’s watched and rewatched Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” during that Superbowl halftime show?

      And that was almost 10 years ago, so my guess is they’ve been able to tally numbers on cable set top boxes and DVRs for longer than that.

      We could have had real numbers out there good enough to save Firefly, dammit!! …not that I’m bitter, or anything 😉

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