The Nielsen Company, yes the same Nielsen company whose TV ratings decide how many advertising dollars shows gets by putting a little box in like twelve Midwesten soccer mom’s homes who watch “The Voice” exclusively has decided to incorporate information from that thing the kids are always watching the cats on these days. Oh what’s it called? The interwebs? Some series of tubes.
The Nielsen Cross-Platform Campaign Ratings launched on Monday and will incorporate information from ESPN, Facebook, Hulu and some things called GroupM and Unilever. Nielsen seeks to show advertisers that it can deliver “comparable metrics across TV and digital, measuring unique audience on each, along with overlapping audience and total combined unique audience.”
Well this is certainly a start. It’s coming about five years too late and it doesn’t appear to be all-encompassing quite yet but the mere acknowledgement by the Nielsen ratings that not everyone watches programming as a ’60s-style family gathered around a glowing 24-inch box with rabbit years is a step in the right direction.
What comes next is that the Nielsen ratings need to be able to quantify things like Netflix views, deeper iTunes numbers and even illegal views (more people watched Game of Thrones illegally than on HBO.) if they want to give advertisers the best idea of viewership possible.
It is surprising, however, that the system has survived as is for so long. It certainly works for networks like CBS who benefit from the inflated numbers from their “just turn on ‘NCIS’ and hope it puts grandpa to sleep on time” demographic. It probably works for for dumb advertisers who think sleepy grandpa’s have a hidden stash of Depression-era gold. And it might even work for smart advertisers who are able to get cheap ad space on shows whose audiences are actually conscious.
But why have cable channels and struggling networks like NBC allowed this to go on so long? The Nielsens are just now starting to even attempt to quantify online data and NBC has a show that midseason finale generated so many comment on the A.V. Club website that they dedicated a whole separate article to it.
Cable channels and low-rated networks remind me of a hypothetical person (who certainly isn’t me) who bases all of their success around an arbitrary statistic like say…number of sexual partners. This person is obsessed with bedding as many attractive people as possible even though they are hopelessly unable to talk to anyone like their suave friend Carlos Bello Silvio (goes by CBS). And it’s a shame because this person has so many other things to measure success off of like great family and friends, a steady job and an immense collection of Cleveland Indians memorbilia. But still I…I mean, they can’t stop judging themselves based on the one standard that society (Nielsen ratings) have put forth.
What were we talking about again? Right. Good work out there today, Nielsen.