Nielsen will begin counting mobile in its TV ratings

Steven Loeb · October 28, 2013 · Short URL:

New Nielsen SDK will measure mobile viewings, will be added to TV ratings starting next season

It is no secret that the way people consume television is changing rapidly. With DVRs, people can now watch their shows on their own schedules. 

And the phrase "I don't even own a television" is becoming moot because, well, every device, from a PC to a smartphone, is now potentially a device from which a television show can be watched. (Seriously, if you are pirating episodes of Game of Thrones off the Internet to watch on your laptop, just face it: you own a television.)

Nielsen obviously knows that people don't watch TV the same way they did even a decade ago. And while it took them a while, they are now, finally, beginning to evolve along with the viewers. Earlier this year the company began extending its TV viewing ratings to the Web. And now comes the next step: mobile.

Nielsen will begin making available a new SDK to its clients, which will allow them to measure how many people are watching television on their mobile devices, it was announced Monday. These measurements will then be incorporated into Nielsen's traditional television ratings, beginning next season.

Not all shows being streamed on a mobile device will automatically be counted toward television ratings, though; there are still certain standards that they must meet.

For example, if a broadcaster makes a show available to be viewed digitally, it has to "meet ad load and timeline requirements" for television ratings. If it does, it will be counted toward Nielsen's TV ratings.

If the show does not meet these requirements, "due to elapsed crediting time, dynamic ad insertion or because it originated from the Web itself," it will instead count toward Nielsen Digital Ratings. These include Nielsen Digital Program Ratings for content ratings, as well as Nielsen Online Campaign Ratings for the ad rating.

Clients will be able to implement this measurement beginning in mid-November, and it will be incorporated it into their ratings beginning next year, in the 2014-2015 television season.

“We’ve been working hard to deliver this new SDK and are excited to be able to deliver a single client solution that supports both the linear (TV style) and dynamic (Internet style) ad models," Megan Clarken, EVP, Global Product Leader at Nielsen, said in a statement. "This unified encoding approach for video enables measurement to follow content across screens and ad models."

Obviously advertisers will see the biggest benefit from this new data measurement and metric. They will be given a clearer picture of just how many people are watching the shows in question, and will be able to set their rates accordingly. 

Getting a clearer picture of the scope of the mobile audience will also most likely increase the number of dollars going into mobile video ad spending, a number which is already on the rise, according to a recent Pew study.

Seven out of 10 agency buyers saying that they are buying mobile video today, compared to only 30% who were buying video ads on the iPad, and only 45% who were buying them on smartphones, in 2010. For brands, 43% are now buying mobile video. Three years ago, only a quarter would even buy them on smartphones, and only 17% on the iPad. 

Many brands and agencies still do not fully trust audience measurement methodologies, however, but Nielsen is trying to change that with its new technology.

The new SDK knows where the video is being viewed by analyzing audio watermarks, metadata and tags which are "associated with the content and related advertising." The technology is currently patent pending.

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