Nielsen TV ratings to include online streaming

The company that measures television viewership will soon begin counting people who watch programming through broadband instead of a traditional broadcast or cable hook-up.
A man watches U.S. President Barack Obama's state of the union speech last week. Starting in the fall, Nielsen ratings will include broadcasts viewed online. (Omar Sobhani/Reuters)

The company that monitors television viewership will soon begin counting people who watch TV through broadband Internet services instead of a traditional antenna or cable hook-up.

Nielsen announces changes Thursday that are a major shift in the TV ratings landscape. For many years, roughly 99 percent of homes in the U.S. had televisions that received service through broadcast, cable or satellite signals.

Now the number of homes without such service is 4.2 per cent — and growing each year. Most of those homes have TVs, however, and their owners watch programming through game consoles or services like Netflix and Amazon.

TV over the Internet

"Over the last 12 months, Nielsen has explored expanding the current definition of a TV household to more accurately reflect media consumption and technology advancements," Nielsen vice-president Pat McDonough told CBC News.

"Nielsen also conducted research into homes that did not fit the current definition. We found that many of these homes still had TVs but were using a broadband source to view content."

To remedy that, Nielsen will begin tracking the habits of these homes starting September. It will soon ship out updated monitoring units to the 23,000 Americans whose viewing habits it currently tracks to come up with ratings data.

The ultimate goal is to capture any video or radio broadcast being viewed, in any medium.

"On the path to capturing all viewing in all homes, this foundational change addresses the lion’s share of viewing, in effect including any home with a TV that can receive video via an external source," McDonough said.

With files from the Associated Press