Nielsen says it's prepared to give viewing credit for the 26 live TV channels that Verizon FiOS TV customers will be able to watch through Microsoft's Xbox 360 later this month.
FiOS TV is one of 40-plus content partners Microsoft will bring to its popular game console over the next several months, as the software giant looks to become a central hub for home entertainment. One feature Microsoft has highly touted in the update to the Xbox 360 user interface released Tuesday is the ability to let users find and control content using voice commands and gestures through the Kinect attachment.
"TV content delivered through game consoles is eligible to contribute to ratings as long as the content is encoded and viewed on a metered set," Brian Fuhrer, Nielsen's senior vice president and product leader for national and cross-platform measurement, said in an emailed statement. "We are working closely with the content distributors and console manufacturers to make sure this continues to meet our requirements for detection."
The fact that Nielsen is able to measure viewing on Xbox was one of the key reasons that Viacom, for one, is playing ball with the FiOS-on-Xbox service.
"Verizon FiOS approached us in advance to discuss this new opportunity for Xbox Live consumers," Joseph Molko, senior vice president of content distribution and marketing for Viacom Media Networks, said in a statement. "We're open to distributing our content on this platform as the programming is Nielsen-rated and we'll be able to monetize viewing through ad sales."
Viacom objected to the iPad apps for in-home live TV from Time Warner Cable and Cablevision Systems, in part because Nielsen currently doesn't track that usage. Viacom and Cablevision subsequently reached an agreement on terms for the MSO's iPad app. Nielsen is working with pay-TV providers to figure out how to incorporate tablet viewing into overall TV metrics, a project it has pegged as a top priority for 2012.
Viacom's networks will represent one-third of the FiOS TV lineup available through Xbox 360. The nine Viacom networks to be available are BET, Comedy Central, MTV, MTV2, Nickelodeon, Nick Jr., Spike, TV Land and VH1.
Recently, Viacom has had a dispute with Nielsen over ratings for Nickelodeon, with the media company blaming a big drop in ratings at the kids' network on anomalies by Nielsen. Nielsen acknowledged it incorrectly reported a rise in the number of children watching TV this fall while maintaining that its ratings for Nickelodeon are accurate.
The other media companies in the initial FiOS-on-Xbox cut are Turner Broadcasting System (CNN, Cartoon Network, HLN, TBS, TNT, truTV, TCM and Boomerang), Disney/ABC (ESPNews), Scripps Networks Interactive (Food Network, HGTV, Travel Channel and DIY Network), Time Warner Inc.'s HBO (HBO, HBO 2 and Cinemax) and Crown Media (Hallmark Channel).
Of the initial FiOS TV on Xbox lineup, 17 networks are HD and nine are standard-def.
The HD channels are: BET, Cinemax, CNN, Comedy Central, ESPNews, Food Network, HBO, HBO 2, HGTV, MTV, Nickelodeon, Spike, TBS, TNT, Travel Channel, truTV and VH1. The SD channels are: Boomerang, Cartoon Network, DIY, Hallmark Channel, HLN, MTV2, Nick Jr., TCM and TV Land.
Verizon has designed a promotional FiOS bundle around Xbox. It is offering new customers who sign up online for FiOS TV service through Jan. 21, 2012, a triple play starting at $89.99 per month that includes 35/35 Mbps Internet service, plus a 12-month Xbox Live Gold membership and a copy of the "Xbox Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary" game.
To access FiOS TV and the other expanded array of TV options, Xbox 360 users must subscribe to Microsoft's Xbox Live Gold service, which costs $60 per year, and hook up the game console to a broadband connection.