In what Nielsen called a “foundational change” in how it measures TV viewing -- but initially is not likely to have much effect in practice -- the research company announced Thursday that it will expand its definition of a TV household for ratings purposes to include homes with broadband-connected televisions.
That means that starting in September, Nielsen’s national People Meter sample of 23,000 TV households will include “over-the-top” television programming, delivered over broadband to a TV set rather than via broadcast antenna or through a cable, satellite or telco TV service.
For now, however, the expanded definition includes only TV-connected devices -- such as Microsoft’s Xbox, Apple TV and Roku’s set-top -- not devices such as iPads or computers.
And today, only a limited amount of TV programming as tabulated by Nielsen is delivered through Internet-connected TV devices. For example, Verizon FiOS customers can watch a portion of their linear lineup on Samsung Smart TVs and Xbox gaming consoles.
But with the shift, Nielsen would now be in a position to track viewing on OTT services, such as the one Intel has said it is currently assembling for launch later in 2013.
On Thursday, Nielsen shared the expanded definition of TV households with its media clients. Under the new definition, Nielsen considers a TV household as one that has “at least one operable TV/Monitor with the ability to deliver video via traditional means of antennae, cable STB or Satellite receiver and/or with a broadband connection.”
“Over the last 12 months, Nielsen has explored expanding the current definition of a TV household to more accurately reflect media consumption and technology advancements,” Pat McDonough, senior vice president of insights and analysis at Nielsen, said in a statement. “Nielsen also conducted research into homes that did not fit the current definition. We found that many of these homes still had TVs but were using a broadband source to view content.”
Nielsen has estimated that about three-fourths of the 5 million homes in the U.S. that don’t receive over-the-air or subscription-TV service have at least one television set.
McDonough added that in collaboration with clients, “we will continue to expand the reach of television audience measurement.”
With the change, Nielsen said it will add approximately 160 homes to the 23,000-household People Meter sample. The company estimated that under the new definition, the sample will include around 2,000 Internet-connected TVs, which will be monitored by new metering devices.
Nielsen's decision to expand the definition of TV households was first reported Wednesday by The Hollywood Reporter.