Nov 24, 2020 - Economy & Business

Nielsen's bid to win streaming

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Nielsen, the decades-old TV and radio measurement company, is pushing to position itself to be the top vendor for streaming TV measurement. 

Why it matters: The industry loves to rag on Nielsen for being outdated, but it's still the most authoritative vendor in measuring tune-in for live television, and increasingly streaming TV content.

Driving the news: Netflix released new data Monday that said "The Queen's Gambit," a show about chess, was its most popular limited series ever with 62 million households tuning into the drama. 

  • But the entertainment giant offered no context for how it measures household viewership, leaving analysts to ponder how reliable the figure really is. 

Nielsen releases a weekly list of streaming minutes watched by show and streaming service. 

  • Its most recent data shows that The Queen's Gambit entered the Top 10 streaming shows in mid-October in terms of minutes per month streamed.
  • While the numbers don't sync up exactly with Netflix's proprietary data, Nielsen's measurement of Netflix content like BirdBox and Murder Mystery has in the past somewhat resembled data Netflix itself has released, suggesting it could be a helpful resource for validating proprietary figures.

Between the lines: Nielsen has also been working to integrate streaming measurement into its live TV ratings. In September it added digital TV views to its live TV measurement figures, so that views on services Sling or YouTube TV could be counted.

  • In an effort that's proved critical in developing trust among the industry for its content ratings, it's also pushed to do better at measuring digital TV ads. 
  • It recently announced a major deal to add 55 million devices across smart TVs and set-top boxes to boost its measurement capabilities.

The big picture: Because of the different dynamics between streaming and traditional TV, there's room for many measurement providers to exist alongside Nielsen, which focuses mostly on who watched what and for how long.

The bottom line: Subscription steaming companies like Netflix have started to warm up to Nielsen's streaming data now that they are competing against so many other services. But the idea of them actually committing to 3rd-party vendors releasing viewership numbers still feels far off.

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