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Nielsen Says It Will Measure Audiences for TV Episodes That Stream Via Netflix

Nielsen said it would extend measurement of TV-show audiences to select subscription video on demand services, a new push by the backer of the media industry’s main yardstick to gauge interest in new video-watching behaviors.

The company will make available audience data for content that streams on select SVOD players. A&E Networks, Disney ABC Television Group, Lionsgate, NBCUniversal, and Warner Brothers are among the companies that have subscribed to the new service, Nielsen said. The data is available to the clients, who could choose to release it publicly.  In all, eight networks and production studios have agreed to get the data.

“Measurement of SVOD content has been a big blind spot for the industry,” said Megan Clarken, the Nielsen executive who oversees measurement products related to video, in an interview. “Being able to follow assets across all these forms of consumer consumption, being measured apples to apples by a third party independent measurement is incredibly important for the studios, for the licensors or the rights holders of content.”

The announcement represents the measurement company’s latest push to chronicle a host of emerging viewing behaviors associated with the rise of streaming video and mobile screens. TV networks still get the bulk of their ad revenue from linear broadcasts of TV programming. To combat eroding ratings, the networks need to be able to count all viewers, no matter whether they consume an episode of, say, “Grey’s Anatomy” on a Thursday-night linear ABC broadcast, on demand via set-top box, or days or weeks later via a streaming platform.

Clarken said the new technology was aimed primarily at chronicling activity around Netflix. “It is clearly the largest in the industry, and the one in which most of our clients said they don’t have transparency. There are about 12,000 shows that appear on Netflix that have not been measured in the past. This provides measurement across some 12,000 of those assets, and we will extend it to the SVOD services that are not measured today.”

But a Netflix spokesman said the streaming-video company was not participating in the effort. “The data that Nielsen is reporting is not accurate, not even close, and does not reflect the viewing of these shows on Netflix,” the company said in a statement. Many of Nielsen’s new measurement efforts hinge on TV networks placing a digital “tag” into sundry pieces of content. That identifying code allows measurement companies to track when, say, a TV episode streams, for example, or appears on video on demand. But it’s not clear if that system is at play in the company’s Netflix effort. Nielsen’s Clarken said in the past, when it has been asked by a client to measure Netflix activity, the company has relied on data from individual clients.

Nielsen said clients who subscribe to the service “will now have a more comprehensive view of their content’s total audience regardless of where it was viewed—and the ability to follow the full life-cycle of a program from live to time-shifted viewing to set-top-box video on-demand and now SVOD.”

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