Nielsen's Mobile Ratings Are Coming — But You Probably Won't Notice Right Away

Execs at the media company say the inclusion of tablets and mobile phones into TV measurement will start small due to relatively low adoption and the frequency of time-shifting.
Will Hart/NBC
"The Blacklist"

As audiences continue to seek out new platforms, timetables and providers in their television consumption, measurement guru Nielsen continues to make efforts to account for all viewers. And at the prompting of clients, both TV and advertising, Nielsen will launch mobile ratings this fall.

Executive vp U.S. media Cheryl Idell was on hand for the first panel of the Television Critics Association summer press tour to walk some of the more flummoxed reporters in attendance through the details. And while she was optimistic about the potential moving forward, Idell clarified that traditional ratings would not see an immediate lift from fall's mobile rollout.

"Around September through November there will be a preview period where the [mobile ratings] won't be included in the [tradition] ratings," said Idell, noting that networks were keen to get a first look at the data before the information goes public. And even then, lifts will be marginal — at least where live-plus-same-day ratings are concerned.

The additional platforms will also only lump in linear ads (the one shared with first-runs on TV) and not dynamic ones (the targeted ads more common on vehicles like Hulu). The latter data will be used for other purposes

Idell also wanted to "demystify" the notion that live TV viewing, in the traditional sense, is on the wane. The rate of live TV viewing, on the whole, has stayed constant for the last three years while time-shifting has surged 30 percent. It's time-shifting where the mobile numbers might have the biggest impact, since most mobile viewing happens outside the window of same-day ratings. There is no set date for when mobile ratings will start their trial rollout for networks, or when that will end and the data will get rolled in to public ratings, but Nielsen implied it would be before year's end.

And because no ratings discussion would be complete without touching on the mystery of Netflix, one reporter closed out the session by asking if there would be similar data for streamers. 

"We're not in business with Netflix yet," Idell said to several laughs, "but we would love to be able to be."