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Nielsen Logs On to Test Digital TV Content Ratings

Nielsen Logs On to Test Digital TV Content Ratings

The established name in television viewing measurement is taking its brand and methodology to the Web. Nielsen will test a pilot program for rating TV content that's viewed online, and the major broadcast networks are all on board. The program won't provide as much granular data as what digital advertisers are used to with other Web video, but Nielsen promises that information will be coming soon as the company looks to follow where viewers lead them online.

By Enid Burns
05/01/13 7:00 AM PT

As TV audiences move online, it has become necessary to measure those viewers in new ways. Nielsen had that shift in mind this week when it launched Nielsen Digital Program Ratings, a pilot program which measures audiences for TV content viewed online.

Eight content owners, including the four major broadcast networks, will take part in the pilot program with a commercial release expected later this year.

Nielsen Digital Program Ratings will measure audience viewership online using TV-comparable overnight metrics. The pilot program will offer overnight audience numbers in formats such as unique audience, stream counts and reach by age and gender for TV programming.

The audience measurement company believes that Nielsen Digital Program Ratings combined with Nielsen Online Campaign Ratings will give advertisers a better picture of online and TV audiences. The data is intended to help networks with their programming and media buyers design better ad campaigns.

Media companies A+E, ABC, AOL, CBS, the CW, Discovery Communications, Fox, NBC and Univision will have their online content rated from May through July. Nielsen plans to include duration weighting of video and reporting of TV-comparable ratings when the program goes into wider release later in the year.

TV to Online

The Nielsen Digital Program Ratings uses TV ratings as a model for the offering.

"Our goal is to extend this measurement to all digital video, but our initial focus is on measuring TV content viewed online," Eric Solomon, Nielsen senior vice president of digital audience measurement told the E-Commerce Times.

"Nielsen 'C3' TV ratings have been determined by industry leaders to be the primary metric for buying and selling of advertising on TV," Solomon said. "As our TV clients make their content available for viewing in other ways, we have a responsibility to help these clients measure the audiences of their content across screens."

The TV model translates well for brands and agencies that buy commercials on TV. It might lack measurements that digital offers, such as how long a commercial is watched, and better data on who exactly is watching that commercial.

"I think it's a smart move on Nielsen's part," Steve Ustaris, VP of marketing for OwnerIQ told the E-Commerce Times. "It's good because it's consistent in how television buyers measure effectiveness. From a digital media perspective, from a person who works with highly targeted campaigns, I still see gaps in the measurement system."

While the data will sit well with television media buyers, who buy based on audience size with some demographic data, digital media buyers will look for a more detailed breakdown.

"When you start going into the digital realm, digital is a much more accountable media. We hold it to a higher standard," said Ustaris.

Using the New Data Set

Content owners, such as the networks, will use the data to give advertisers a better perspective of the audience.

"Nielsen Digital Program Ratings will enable publishers to understand their audiences using the same measurement methodology as Nielsen Online Campaign Ratings (OCR). We believe that publishers will use this data to sell their audiences to advertisers and provide them the confidence to make OCR-based delivery guarantees to their advertiser clients," said Solomon.

Initially the program will measure TV content viewed online. Nielsen plans to include additional content types and devices after initial testing during the pilot program.

"When viewing from tablets and smartphones is added to the product, we plan to break out usage by platform and potentially provide other breaks, such as operating system," he said.

Nielsen Digital Program Ratings fills a hole that developed as audiences moved from viewing content on TV screens to online. It helps Nielsen broaden its offering, and gives media buyers data they can use. Some advertisers and media buyers might want more.

"In the online world the data gets stricter. It's serving a different category from the television buyer," said Ustaris. "This is not something that a digital media buyer is screaming for. This definitely was built for the television-buying professional. "


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