Nielsen Calls for TV Ratings Overhaul in Response to Digital, Streaming Viewing Habits

Company offers to count streaming video on demand numbers and dynamic ads

Even Nielsen wants Nielsen to measure TV ratings differently.

In a Thursday blog post, “Nielsen Calls For Industry To Adopt New Ratings Standards,” Executive Vice President of Global Product Leadership Megan Clarken wrote that the ratings giant really began to notice accelerated ratings decline across most demographics in April. Now, the company wants to revamp the very system that it helped invent and currently supports.

“The growing penetration of new devices and the popularity of subscription-based streaming services, time-shifted and over-the-top viewing — as well as cord-cutting and cord shaving — are fundamentally changing the TV industry,” the Nielsen employee wrote.

From a business standpoint, traditional C3/C7 methods of measurement are not covering a growing percentage of actual content — and thus ad — consumption. While some popular forms of unplugged viewing — such as smartphones and tablets — are eligible to be measured under changes that the company implemented this season, many multiplatform advertisements are being dynamically inserted and changed from their original broadcast form, which means they don’t qualify for a Nielsen credit.

Summing up the problem with its current system, Nielsen believes that today’s decline in traditional TV ratings are due to the following factors:

- The growing shift of audiences to time-shifted digital content, including both SVOD (subscription video on demand), such as Netflix, and digital properties distributing traditional television programming, such as Hulu. Neither of these are included in the current TV ratings under industry definition.
– Increased viewership of TV programs on devices such as tablets and smartphones, which became eligible for inclusion in Nielsen ratings this fall.
– Growing time and attention spent on newer sources of video content, such as YouTube
– The addition of broadband-only viewing to the TV ratings universe

To remedy the situation, Nielsen suggested adopting the following two standards:
1. Total Audience, which combines the total audience for a program or content regardless of the mode of access, including SVOD.
2. Total Commercial, which includes ratings for the ad campaign regardless of where and how it’s consumed, providing flexibility for dynamic ad insertion.

“Nielsen is prepared to present the total picture of the consumer — one that fully reflects their viewing of all content available and delivers a proven return to our clients on their investments,” the post concluded. “Nielsen is committed to measuring the total audience.”