Broadband-delivered TV is about to get its place at Nielsen’s table.
In what the research company called a “foundational change” in how it measures TV viewing — but one that’s initially unlikely to have much real effect — Nielsen said it will expand its definition of a TV household for ratings purposes to include homes with broadband-connected televisions.
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 smart HDTVs, Microsoft’s Xbox, the Apple TV set-top and Roku’s box — but not devices such as iPads or computers.
“This is a good first step that Nielsen is taking, but what we really need for them to tackle with more speed is measuring viewing on tablets,” Viacom Media Networks chief research officer Colleen Fahey Rush said.
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.
The move is “the necessary first step toward more holistic measurement,” Sanford Bernstein senior analyst Todd Juenger said. But, he added, “I wouldn’t expect a big jump in audiences for the traditional networks” as a result. Internet-video advertising on websites such as YouTube and Hulu is already being tallied, Juenger noted.
With the shift, though, Nielsen would be in a position to track viewing on purely over-the- top TV services, such as the one Intel has said it is currently assembling for launch later in 2013.
Nielsen last week shared the expanded definition of TV households with its media clients. In collaboration with clients, “we will continue to expand the reach of television audience measurement,” Nielsen senior vice president of insights and analysis Pat McDonough said in a statement.
Nielsen has estimated that about three-fourths of the 5 million U.S. homes that don’t receive over-the-air or subscription- TV service have at least one television set.
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 would include about 2,000 Internet-connected TVs, which will be monitored by new metering devices. The panel currently measures more than 60,000 TV sets.