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Over-the-Top Shouldn’t Mean Under-the-Radar

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Last week ended with a bit of interesting news from Nielsen, which announced it is now adding online TV viewing to its ratings business. This is a great step, and generated the following first reactions:

Finally! Hulu launched nearly six years ago, now generating more than 800 streams a month. Two years ago Apple reported 450 million TV shows have been downloaded from iTunes. Netflix has more than 20 million subscribers, about a quarter of which don’t watch cable TV at all. This is not a niche activity any longer. Clearly traditional network or cable is no longer the only medium for enjoying TV shows and movies these days, so it’s only fitting that Nielsen would eventually catch up, and we’re glad it has.

It was inevitable. As has already been pointed out in the news reports, many TV execs in particular have been complaining that their Nielsen ratings were not reflective of reality based on the shift to online platforms. Nielsen had to implement this policy or risk losing clients. But tracking on new platforms isn’t easy, and it’s not all Nielsen’s burden to compile this info. For instance, Nielsen can’t track activity of specific shows on Netflix (just overall Netflix usage) because of Netflix’s encoding practices. As more online providers get their reporting and tech processes in line, better measurement will follow.

There’s much more to come.  Despite this useful step, Nielsen still is not tracking viewership on tablets, which is becoming a major usage platform. Until all platforms are measured, it will be just that much more difficult to monetize content across devices (such as tablets).

What’s next? Knowing how, when and what people are watching across a range of devices is crucial to understanding how to monetize that content. You can’t put a price tag on an ad without knowing who’s seeing it.

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