Film at 11! Nielsen Decides to Monitor TV and Internet Usage in the Same Homes!

Last Updated Oct 20, 2009 12:08 PM EDT

On Friday, Nielsen held a so-called "special meeting" with about 80 entities, from advertisers to media companies, and decided to do the following earthshaking thing: install meters that monitor Internet behavior in all of the homes where it measures TV viewing, within the next year. If that sounds like a no-brainer, it is -- but this is Nielsen we're dealing with, not the swiftest-moving organization in the known universe. The objective is to eventually be able to measure TV viewing not only across TVs and DVRs, which Nielsen already does, but also on the PC, which is becoming an increasingly popular platform on which to watch TV.

Actually, what struck me about the story about this in Mediapost was what the reported tenor of the meeting was. A Nielsen exec described the meeting as:

"a lot less contentious" than the last special client meeting it held several years ago to resolve a plan to integrate time-shifted viewing from digital video recorders into its national TV ratings.
The reason that's so importnat its that it demonstrates the industry knows there can be no more overwrought and endless futzing around about getting a true grip on who's watching what, where and when. Moves like the ones Nielsen is making now used to take years.

With some shows this TV season showing healthy double-digit percentage increases in viewers once DVR viewing is factored in, there's no time to waste on getting a true feel for the TV audience; measuring Internet viewing of TV is the obvious next step, and it's increasing so rapidly that advertisers, media companies and agencies can't exactly stand around waiting for the perfect metric. Consider that, per comScore, 161 million U.S. Internet users watched online video in August, a record. While the short-form YouTube video is still the predominant thing that people watch, comScore also found that the online audience for what it calls the "Entertainment--TV" category grew by 17 percent between August and September. There are an awful lot of people who have started to abandon traditional ways of watching TV, and it's also likely those are the people advertisers most want -- the young, affluent and tech-savvy who skate easily from screen to screen.

We could wonder whether one reason Nielsen is moving so swiftly is that it is facing pressure from an outside consortium -- made up mostly, if not entirely, of companies that do business with Nielsen -- to measure TV viewing across multiple platforms. Nothing like a threat -- which Nielsen has had precious little of over the years -- to get the adrenaline pumping.

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