Nielsen Media Research is telling clients that viewers who watch shows online through "TV Everywhere" services from Comcast, Time Warner Cable and others could be counted toward overall TV ratings -- but that the full implementation of its system to track such Internet services will not be available until early 2011.
Sara Erichson, president of Nielsen's Media Client Services for North America, in a letter Tuesday to clients, wrote that such authentication services "could provide the best way for video content providers to monetize TV programs online" and that online audiences viewing these programs could be included in Nielsen's TV ratings.
But, she added, Nielsen will move cautiously on incorporating TV Everywhere into its total ratings.
"Given that more than $70 billion of television advertising is bought and sold using Nielsen ratings, we are careful not to take any actions that would dilute the reliability of the core television ratings data," Erichson wrote. "Consequently, we are undertaking an extensive evaluation program before fully integrating television and Internet measurement."
Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Verizon Communications and AT&T are each in the early stages of testing "authenticated" services, which would provide additional video to pay-TV subscribers over the Internet for no additional charge.
As outlined this summer by Time Warner Inc. and Comcast, one of the chief benefits of TV Everywhere is that it would extend the advertising sold for traditional television to other platforms as part of Nielsen's C+3 ratings, which measure live viewership plus three days of time-shifted viewing.
For now, no standard mechanism exists to measure views tabulated by TV Everywhere services.
Nielsen, as part of its Anytime Anywhere Media Measurement (A2/M2) initiative, currently has installed an Internet software meter with 375 homes in its national People Meter panel to evaluate the measurement of Internet usage alongside TV usage, according to Erichson. The company expects to complete the installation of the Internet meter to its approximately 18,000 National People Meter households in 2010 and full implementation in early 2011.
Nielsen appears to be responding, in part, to news that broke last month of an affiliation of programmers, ad agencies and advertisers is reportedly working on a plan to develop a rival standard for cross-platform video-viewing metrics.
Erichson said until its Internet meters are fully implemented the media-measurement firm "will continue discussions with all our clients about their Extended Screen initiatives and will work with MSOs and programmers" to support tests of TV Everywhere-style services.
"Though no one knows for sure which business models for online video will emerge as the most successful, Nielsen will be prepared to measure audiences no matter which ones prevail," Erichson wrote.