• The Hollywood Reporter on LinkedIn
  • Follow THR on Pinterest

Nielsen Agrees to Expand Definition of TV Viewing

Nielsen logo - H 2012
Nielsen logo

After a meeting in New York Tuesday, the ratings company will roll out a system to measure broadband, Xbox and, in time, iPads, with more changes to come.

The Nielsen Co. is expanding its definition of television and will introduce a comprehensive plan to capture all video viewing including broadband and Xbox and iPads, several sources tell The Hollywood Reporter.

The decision to expand beyond traditional TV ratings measurement came out of a meeting in New York on Tuesday of the What Nielsen Measures Committee, a group that has been meeting for nearly a year. The committee is composed of representatives from major TV networks, local TV stations, cable TV networks, advertising agencies and some big brand advertisers.

STORY: Nielsen and Twitter Partner for Social Media TV Ratings

The decisions made by the committee are not binding but a source at one of the big four networks was ecstatic at the prospect of expanded measurement tools. The networks for years have complained that total viewing of their shows isn't being captured by traditional ratings measurements. This is a move to correct that.

By September 2013, when the next TV season begins, Nielsen expects to have in place new hardware and software tools in the nearly 23,000 TV homes it samples. Those measurement systems will capture viewership not just from the 75 percent of homes that rely on cable, satellite and over the air broadcasts but also viewing via devices that deliver video from streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon, from so-called over-the-top services and from TV enabled game systems like the X-Box and PlayStation.

While some use of iPads and other tablets that receive broadband in the home will be included in the first phase of measurement improvements, a second phase is envisioned to include such devices in a more comprehensive fashion. The second phase is envisioned to roll out on a slower timetable, according to sources, will the overall goal to attempt to capture video viewing of any kind from any source.

Nielsen is said to have an internal goal of being able to measure video viewing on an iPad by the end of this year, a process in which the company will work closely with its clients.

STORY: TV Pilot Season 2013: By the Numbers

The shift doesn’t mean Nielsen will begin to provide ratings data for, say, Netflix. Nielsen will capture how much time is spent on that kind of viewing, but to actually provide ratings, Netflix would have to agree to encode its program signals so that Nielsen software can identify them and trace their source. The traditional TV networks do encode their signals to be compatible with Nielsen’s measurement tools.

Nielsen already captures a small amount of out-of-home viewing, such as at a few colleges. If a student comes from a Nielsen home, his or her TV viewing is tracked when the student goes off to college.

Nielsen also has a “customized” program to capture some viewing in places like college dorms, bars and restaurants. While Nielsen wants to expand its measurement out of home, that is not part of this initiative. Nielsen appears to be waiting until it acquires Arbitron, which does more such out of home measurement, before making that a priority.

A spokesperson for Nielsen declined to comment.

Email: Alex.Benblock@thr.com

Twitter: @ABBlock