Nielsen, the television ratings giant that determines how successful shows are by measuring viewership, is finally going to start including the millions of households that stream media to their computers, set-top boxes, game consoles, and other streaming devices.
The company has already rolled out a pilot program for some big name networks including A+E, ABC, AOL, CBS, The CW, Discovery Communications, FOX, NBC and Univision. The "Nielsen Digital Program Ratings" pilot is set to run from May through June, and despite being in testing phase, the ratings firm must feel pretty confident about the new system as they have already announced that it will launch commercially later this year.
It's hard to believe that they are just getting around to updating the ratings system to include streaming, but better late than never. Online viewership of extremely popular shows like Community and Mad Men continues to balloon, and historically this data has not been taken into account. Nielsen said that they will be measuring how many streams of a particular show are concurrently running, so networks can start incorporating this data into the decision making process.
As always, with the TV industry, it comes down to advertising. "As a companion product to Nielsen Online Campaign Ratings, Nielsen Digital Program Ratings will enable clients to better understand the online audience for their programming by harnessing the same methodology Nielsen already uses to measure the audience for related advertising," said Eric Solomon, SVP for Global Digital Audience Measurement at Nielsen.
Currently, Nielsen states that there are 114.2 million households in the United States with televisions. The new definition includes homes if they have a broadband connection and at least one operable TV/monitor with the ability to deliver video. This increases the number of "television" equipped households to 115.6 million.
The company has stated that they intend to eventually include other mediums as well in the ratings system, including metrics from sources like YouTube and Hulu.