The Future of TV Ratings

Online streaming companies have a larger audience than ever before. It’s true that viewers are returning to the living room to watch certain TV shows, but a larger number of viewers are catching their shows online or on demand.

Many TV networks have made big changes to compete with Netflix and Hulu. Just look at how TV networks have responded in the wake of Netflix’s success with its original programming. Despite the market-wide push back against online streaming companies, some networks have shown enthusiasm about the evolving TV industry. Recently, CBS Entertainment Chairman Nina Tassler spoke about the current state of the TV market, stressing her belief that new TV viewing platforms are “not replacing” the old ones, but complementing them. However, Tassler did admit that it has become much more challenging for networks to figure out which shows will prove to be successful. It is likely that this has something to do with what some have deemed the “broken syndication market,” but it also has a lot to do with a change in the way networks are responding to Neilsen ratings.

In the past, Neilsen ratings told the TV industry a lot about what shows were working and what shows weren’t delivering, but accurately rating a TV show has become much more complicated in the last few years. Since the rise of online streaming companies, it has been tricky for Neilsen to measure how popular a TV show actually is. Networks are questioning the value of Neilsen ratings because they know that viewers are now watching TV shows on so many different platforms.

Neilsen knew it had to make some changes if its data was going to remain relevant. Last year, Neilsen finally decided that it was time to reevaluate what qualified as “watching TV.” As a first step, Neilsen agreed to begin monitoring homes that received broadband. Despite making this change, Neilsen’s traditional methods of rating TV shows were not effective enough to determine which TV shows smartphone and tablet users were tuning into. Neilsen needed to partner with a company that had access to second screen viewers’ demographics information.

In 2011, Neilsen released a product called “Online Campaign Ratings.” The ratings company partnered with Facebook to implement the product, which involved Facebook sending demographics information from users that viewed certain advertisements to Neilsen for review. After the success of Online Campaign Ratings, Neilsen knew Facebook could help them access the data they needed to modify their TV show ratings in the new market. Now, Neilsen and Facebook have revealed that they are partnering up again to more effectively rate shows. This fall, Facebook will begin to pick up data from video-watchers on iPads and iPhones, and send that data to Neilsen. Then, Neilsen will match demographics information sent from Facebook with an encrypted code associated with the TV show the user was viewing.

Neilsen’s partnership with Facebook will help the ratings company remain valuable in the changing market. Networks may finally begin to receive some useful information about audiences watching from their smartphone or tablet that will enable them to make better predictions about what shows viewers are really interested in watching.

As networks begin to understand what their customers really want, using MediaShowroom will become necessary. Our online screening room will help to efficiently manage and direct potential clients and screeners from networks to the best relevant content for their viewers.

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