This story first appeared in the Dec. 5 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
Nielsen surprised many with the Nov. 19 reveal that ratings for streaming TV (Netflix and Amazon Prime) are coming in December. The announcement also created a lot of confusion.
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Three key takeaways:
1. ONLY A FEW WILL SEE THEM
Is it now possible to gauge how many Netflix subscribers are watching House of Cards? Yes. Will a lot of people see those numbers? Not likely. The new measurement is strictly “opt in,” which means that the only parties who can sneak a peek are producers like Orange Is the New Black studio Lionsgate TV. It’s a chink in the armor, for sure, but full transparency is not on the horizon.
2. DEALS WILL BE IMPACTED
The initiative is designed to empower studios with data on how their series are consumed, so the ratings will change the dynamic when streaming rights are shopped and renegotiated (which in turn could impact talent pacts with studios, too). “Our clients have been asking for more insight into how these viewing patterns are interacting with traditional distribution,” says Nielsen product leadership senior vp Brian Fuhrer. “This is about them learning how to appropriately value their content.”
3. LAPTOP, MOBILE EXCLUDED
The Achilles’ heel of Nielsen’s new measurement is it doesn’t count computer viewers (27 percent of streaming) and mobile (7 percent). Still, TV vehicles like Apple TV and Roku account for the majority of the audience, which has more than doubled in the past year.