Nielsen is taking a big step today. The consumer analysis research organization announced Friday that it will now extend its TV viewing ratings to the Web.
To be specific, Nielsen is expanding its definition of a TV household to any household with “at least one operable TV/Monitor with the ability to deliver video via traditional means of antennae, cable STB or Satellite receiver and/or with a broadband connection.”
In other words, people watching TV via the Internet will, for the first time, be counted along with people watching TV via a cable subscription. But in the future, this could go so far as to include TV viewing on mobile devices, like tablets and smartphones.
The decision came after a year of debate over how to expand the definition of a TV household to keep pace with advancing technology.
“Nielsen also conducted research into homes that did not fit the current definition. We found that many of these homes still had TVs but were using a broadband source to view content,” said Nielsen SVP of Insights and Analysis Patrick McDonough, in a statement.
There’s a lot of talk about how this will now account for cord-cutters. That’s true. But the number of cord-cutters in the U.S. remains fairly small. About 2.9 million people canceled their TV subscriptions in 2011, according to a report from Nielsen. That translates to about 1.5% of TV watchers. It’s a decent sized number, but still small enough for Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes to be a jerk about refusing to offer HBO Go as a standalone streaming service.
But there are a lot more people who do both—subscribe to a traditional TV package and watch TV online. A recent survey from NPD revealed that 18% of people now watch online video on a TV set. That doesn’t even include the number of people who watch TV on their desktop/laptop computers, tablets, smartphones, and iPods. A report released earlier this month by Freewheel.tv shows that video viewership on a mobile device grew six-fold in 2012 to account for 12% of all online video viewing. The number is likely larger since the report only took ad-supported videos into account—so it didn’t include Netflix or Amazon Prime.
Today’s news comes a day after Billboard announced that it will now include YouTube views in its Top 100 measurements. The move slingshots the new viral hit “Harlem Shake” to the number one spot. The song got little attention when it was released in May as a free download, but its popularity has soared this month as thousands of viewers a day upload their own videos of themselves dancing.
Image source: blogs.plos.org