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Why it matters: The industry loves to rag on Nielsen for being outdated, but it's still the most authoritative vendor in measuring tune-in for live television, and increasingly streaming TV content.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

Go deeper

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
Dec 21, 2020 - Economy & Business

Scoop: FuboTV considering exclusive sports content deals

Upstart streaming network fuboTV "should be looking at" forming exclusive partnership deals for live sports offerings, CEO David Gandler tells me.

Why it matters: The company is small but growing fast — its stock price has jumped 340% year to date, including a 19% gain on Thursday and 11% gain on Friday that pushed its fully diluted market cap to more than $5.7 billion, per FactSet — and could pull sports-dedicated streaming companies like DAZN and ESPN+ toward further content siloing.

"Atmospheric river" to whiplash Northern California from drought to flood

A map depicting 24-hour preciptation forecast (inches) ending Monday at 5a.m. local time. Photo: NOAA

A series of powerful "atmospheric river" storms are set dump historic amounts of rainfall across parts of drought-stricken California and the Pacific Northwest from this weekend, forecasters warn.

Why it matters: A strong atmospheric river, packing large amounts of moisture, is predicted to whiplash Northern California from drought to flood.

10,000 trees near giant sequoia groves to be removed after fires

A firefighter looks up at a giant sequoia tree after fire burned through the Sequoia National Forest near California Hot Springs, California, on Sept. 23. Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

"Upwards of" 10,000 trees near giant sequoia groves have been "weakened by drought, disease, age, and/or fire" and must be removed in the wake of California's wildfires, the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks announced.

Why it matters: The damage to these trees, considered "national treasures," and work to remove them means a nearby key highway must remain closed to visitors as they have "the potential to strike people, cars, other structures, or create barriers to emergency response services," per a statement from the national parks.