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Nielsen will adapt its TV ratings to recognize views on other devices

The new system won't be fully ready until 2024, however.
Jon Fingas, @jonfingas
December 8, 2020
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Online movie stream with smartphone. Woman watching film on mobile phone with imaginary video player service.Online movie stream with smartphone. Woman watching film on mobile phone with imaginary video player service.
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Nielsen has been gradually adapting its rating system for the streaming era, but it still centers on the assumption most people are watching live TV — an outdated view when many are watching on other screens at other times. The company is coming to grips with the modern reality, however. Nielsen general manager Scott Brown told Variety in an interview that his firm is readying Nielsen One, a system that will measure ratings well beyond conventional TV viewing.

Instead of focusing on the number of people tuned into a show at the same time, One is expected to also include the number of unique views a show or ad gets over a certain time window, regardless of where or how people watched it. Your on-demand phone stream could count as much as someone’s viewing of the live TV broadcast, even if it’s on a different service.

The system will take a while to roll out. Nielsen won’t have metrics for specific content and ads until the fourth quarter of 2022, and it won’t form the heart of the company’s ratings approach until fall 2024. By that point it could be virtually necessary as people shift further and further away from conventional TV. However, this is no small transition when Nielsen is rethinking a model that it has used for decades.

The change could influence what you watch, too. Advertisers often decide where and how to spend their money based on the likely audience size, and that’s been difficult when a show might appear in multiple formats and services. The easier it is for marketers to track where you see ads, the more likely it is they’ll pour money into internet programming instead of playing it safe with conventional TV.

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