Nielsen expands TV ratings to include Netflix, but are they accurate?
James R | On 21, Oct 2017
Nielsen this week announced that it is expanding its TV ratings to include Netflix.
The firm has long been the go-to analyst for viewing figures across the small screen, but as the world of entertainment and video has changed, so has the way we measure popularity. In short, it’s become a lot harder: while BBC Three is counting up likes, follows shares and requests across iPlayer, YouTube and more, Netflix and Amazon have chosen not to release viewing data at all.
It’s an approach that makes sense – they are not dependent on the same ratings-based advertising revenue as traditional broadcasters, but have a fixed monthly income from subscription – but also one that leaves creators of content on the site in the dark about how successful their work is.
Now, Nielsen is aiming to rectify that, announcing a syndicated solution to independently measure subscription-based streaming content. Nielsen Subscription Video On Demand Content Ratings builds on a long-standing push into online ratings by the firm, which began measuring streaming content in 2014 via an opt-in service. The new commercial service will leverage the demographic and household data of the Nielsen National TV Panel, to identify the kinds of people viewing programmes.
“The significant growth of SVOD services in entertainment markets across the world has created demand from rights owners to understand the size and composition of audiences relative to other programs and platforms,” says Megan Clarken, President of Watch, Nielsen. “The syndication of SVOD measurement as part of Nielsen’s Total Audience offerings represents a big step forward in terms of moving closer to transparency within the SVOD marketplace.”
The data, though, comes with several caveats. The information will not be released publicly – only paying clients will be able to see Nielsen’s data and follow the lifecycle of a title from live to time-shifted viewing to set-top-box video on-demand and SVOD. Nielsen says these insights will “empower content owners and networks with real data into what was previously a significant and expanding blind spot” of consumer behaviour. So far, eight networks and studios have signed up for the information, including A&E Networks, Disney-ABC, Lionsgate, NBCUniversal and Warner Bros.
More crucially, the data will not be taking mobile devices into account – a fact that means the ratings will not accurately capture the viewing behaviour of younger audiences, who are the main drivers of VOD’s rise. Indeed, it places the figures perhaps in same territory of the data already published by some analysts that use audio recognition software to estimate Netflix viewing levels.
“The data that Nielsen is reporting is not accurate, not even close, and does not reflect the viewing of these shows on Netflix, a spokesperson for the streaming giant told Variety.
Nonetheless, Nielsen is rolling the service out across multiple subscription VOD services, aiming to add Amazon Prime Video and Hulu on 2018. Netflix, meanwhile, continues to publish data solely about its subscribers: in Q3 2017, the service added 5.3 million new customers, with 4.45 million coming from international markets.