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One of TV’s bigger mysteries may soon be solved. Nielsen Media, the company with the standard measurement of U.S. TV ratings, has announced plans to measure subscription online video services like Neflix — reports The Wall Street Journal.
Netlfix and Amazon Prime have long been mum on ratings for both acquired programs and original series. And independent data on streaming services has been especially lackluster. Nielsen’s measurements will not yet include mobile device views for streaming series, but the company plans to use the content’s audio to identify which shows are being streamed.
Nielsen plans to tabulate the data for clients, media companies like traditional TV networks and studios, to see how their acquired content is performing on services like Netflix and Amazon. This could have a big effect on negotiations for streaming rights and bundles down the line. “Our clients will be able to look at their programs and understand: Is putting content on Netflix impacting the viewership on linear and traditional VOD ?” Nielsen senior vp Brian Fuhrer told WSJ.
This also means that Netflix and its blockbuster series, such as Orange is the New Black and House of Cards, could potentially have transparent viewership data — at least for those willing to pay for it.
Netflix’s adamant secrecy about ratings has been a source of debate and deep speculation in Hollywood since the streamer stepped out in original content in 2013. Not only is there a curiosity to know the kind of audiences that’s fueling Emmy love and pop-culture affection for shows like Orange is the New Black, the lack of viewership data is something that will figure into negotiations with writers and actors as the young stable grows older.
For now, the intent of the initiative is aimed to give media companies more clarity on where they choose to place streaming rights for their shows — and for how much. In the era of fractured viewership, binge-watching and time-shifting, it’s become abundantly clear that no audience can go uncounted.
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