'Extended Screen' will help measure Web audience

The major broadcast and cable nets should take a big step forward in monetizing Internet viewing of full-length programs this fall. That’s when Nielsen intends to introduce a service that will combine TV and online viewing of shows into a single rating.

Network execs have been pushing Nielsen to come up with a cumed rating they could present to advertisers that adds online viewing into ratings that track viewing done live and via DVR (within three to seven days of the premiere telecast).

As more viewers watch TV shows via Web streaming online, net execs have gnashed their teeth at the lost income potential as online viewing eats away at ratings for the traditional telecasts. Even though most legal online offerings of TV shows have embedded advertising, those online spots aren’t nearly as valuable to the nets as they would be if online viewing stats were factored into a cumed rating.

There’s one wrinkle to the Nielsen rating plan, however, that could spur a major change in the way nets offer programs online. For Web viewing to be included in what Nielsen is calling its “Extended Screen” reporting service, the online episodes have to carry the exact same commercials that run in a TV telecast. For the past few years, online airings of TV shows typically have carried a quarter or fewer of the spots included in a traditional TV airing, and the online runs often draw different sponsors.

At present, Nielsen’s new service would not factor in online viewing done via Hulu, which has become the dominant online vid service for full-length segs, nor would it capture viewing done via ABC.com or other net websites.

But it would work with the new Fancast Xfinity online vid service launched in December by Comcast, which offers on-demand online viewing of a range of cable programming to Comcast subscribers on a password-protected basis. Some of the shows that run on the Xfinity platform carry the same commercial load as they do on regular TV telecasts. The same is true for the “TV Everywhere” service that Time Warner Cable is testing.

Nielsen said it would launch its “Extended Screen” service in September, with the first batch of data released by the end of the year. Those numbers would be considered “evaluation data” until February, when the ratings will go live as part of its national ratings, including its “C3″ ratings that measure viewership of commercial breaks in premiere telecasts and via DVR playback within three days.

Nielsen plans to pull in online viewing data from 7,500 of the 12,000 households in its National People Meter Sample. Those 7,500 households represent about 20,000 people and 12,000 computers.

Nielsen was pressured into speeding up its timetable for developing an omnibus ratings service last fall when showbiz congloms and advertisers joined to create the Coalition for Innovative Media Measurement (Daily Variety, Sept. 11). Org plans to fund research into cutting-edge media measurement systems, which sent a signal that coalition members were frustrated with Nielsen’s slowness to respond to the online viewing boom.

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