Nielsen finally introduces metrics for online TV

Most TV viewers have likely heard of Nielsen at some stage. If you haven’t, they are generally the organisation which offers industry-standard ratings to measure viewership. Up until now these ratings have been becoming more and more irrelevant as audiences move online.

Announced today through a press release, Nielsen is to offer Digital Program Ratings, partnering at launch with many of the major networks including A+E, ABC, AOL, CBS, The CW, Discovery Communications, FOX, NBC and Univision.

This is a logical step forward for both Nielsen and networks wanting to measure the influence of their shows; metrics are a requirement to see just how well they are performing.

As shown in the release the only web-exclusive video streaming service partnered initially is AOL, but this new service is hoped to measure online viewing on sites such as Hulu, YouTube, Yahoo, and Netflix.

Popular series may not have been renewed for follow-up seasons from being viewed primarily online (and therefore untracked) via the variety of on-demand services used by many consumers as their sole source of entertainment today, not on traditional TV.

This proves what an impact Nielsen’s ratings have on the industry. Alan Wurtzel, president of Research and Media Development at NBCUniversal, states how vital tracking tablet viewing is.

"We're just not getting credit for it," he said. "If you can't measure it, you can't sell it."

The technology used is the same as Nielsen’s “Online Campaign Ratings” which delivers overnight statistics for online advertising campaigns. This new measurement takes into account the huge rise of tablet-based viewing and set-top boxes or streamers.

At the end of last year, Nielsen introduced a Twitter TV rating system which was previously the only method of measuring popularity. This method is of course not as reliable; gathering statistics just based upon a social network to gauge success isn’t necessarily ideal.

It’s not just unique viewers Nielsen measures, but also aspects including user retention, reach by age and gender, and the actual percentage of TVs (now also devices) tuned in at any one time.

In almost every industry, analytics is important to fine-tune campaigns, see what works, what isn’t, and help make executive decisions about the future of a product.

Is now a good time for Nielsen’s release of this updated product to prevent becoming outdated? Or should they have released this sooner considering the possible industry impacts?

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