Who watches Netflix? Heretofore, it’s been a nebulous number — somewhere between “almost everybody” and “next to nobody.”
But Nielsen intends to shed some light. Nielsen will soon begin measuring viewership of TV on subscription online video services for the first time, according to The Wall Street Journal.
“Even as Netflix Inc. and other streaming-video providers have expanded to reach 40 percent of American homes, they have largely remained black boxes,” notes the WSJ. “They have refused to share data on how many viewers watch TV shows on their services, and there has been little independent data.”
Nielsen meters can obtain statistics without the assent of services like Netflix and Amazon.com ’s Prime Instant Video. Nielsen plans to analyze the audio components of the programs to identify which shows are being streamed.
Why do it?
“Our clients will be able to look at their programs and understand: Is putting content on Netflix impacting the viewership on linear and traditional VOD (video on demand)?” said Brian Fuhrer, a senior vice president at Nielsen.
Such data could cause an avalanche of reassessment.
And watch out, TV. Nielsen documents unveil serious data suggesting that “time spent on these streaming services is meaningfully eating into traditional television viewing.”
Television viewing is down 7 percent for the month ended Oct. 27 from a year earlier among adults 18 to 49, a demographic that advertisers pay a premium to reach.
“Meanwhile, subscribership to streaming video services has jumped to 40 percent of households in September, up from 34 percent in January, Nielsen found,” says WSJ. “That is a rate of growth that advertising agency executives who saw the Nielsen document said they found shocking. Netflix accounts for the vast majority of the viewership.”
The Nielsen report also posits that people who video-subscribe take in less traditional TV than nonsubscribers: 20 percent less among 18 to 49-year-olds.
“There is a certain indication that as you acquire (subscription online video), your television use, in terms of traditional television use, is going down,” said Dounia Turrill, Nielsen’s senior vice president, client insights.
Television execs may want to “kill the messenger.”
“As television viewership dropped 8 percent in the 18-49 demographic in the third quarter, media executives stuck to their regular script—largely playing down the notion that Netflix and other streaming services are sucking away viewers,” notes WSJ. “(They) say they aren’t getting full credit from Nielsen for consumption of their content on digital platforms. And they say Nielsen’s decision to count broadband-only homes in its measurement sample accounts for part of the decline in ratings.”
The new measurement service — beginning next month — will take in Netflix and Amazon.
For its part, Netflix has previously protested it doesn’t need to release its viewership data since it doesn’t sell advertising.
In any event, numbers are good. And Nielsen intends to provide some as soon as possible.