Broadband Cable Association of Pennsylvania


April 30, 2013

Nielsen is expected to announce Tuesday that it is testing a tool to measure online viewing of TV shows, the latest step in the company's efforts to improve how it tracks digital audiences.

Broadcast and cable networks, including NBC, Fox, ABC, Univision, Discovery and A+E, have signed up for the pilot program for "Nielsen Digital Program Ratings," which will happen over the next few months before a broader commercial rollout later this year. The TV networks will use the program primarily to track viewership of programs on their own websites. NBC, for example, will allow Nielsen to gather usage data for some shows that it streams on The networks can then compare their internal viewership data with Nielsen's to gain comfort with the new ratings system before it is established more broadly.

Nielsen's hope is that the new ratings technology will become the standard to measure online TV viewing on sites like Hulu, Google Inc.'s YouTube, Yahoo and AOL. Among online video sites, only AOL is part of the pilot. Nielsen has been under pressure from the networks to update its traditional methods for counting TV viewing to account for growing digital audiences. Media companies want to make sure they get full credit with advertisers for online viewing. The technology in the Nielsen pilot program is step forward in that direction, but won't provide everything media companies are looking for. It will track viewing of TV content on computers but not on tablets and smartphones. Also, the technology can't yet provide viewership data in the traditional ratings format of the TV industry; instead, it offers Web-oriented metrics like the number of "unique" viewers, plus data on the age and gender of viewers.

Eric Solomon, senior vice president for Global Digital Audience Measurement at Nielsen, said the company plans to cover mobile devices in future releases. The main roadblock to delivering traditional TV ratings for online viewing, he said, is that there isn't a good way to measure how long a user has watched. Nielsen is working on a solution that it plans to test with industry partners, he said. "What we want to do with the pilot is prove this concept," Mr. Solomon said. "We want to understand what some of the gotchas might be before we do a commercial release."

Nielsen's online TV ratings offering will complement the technology it launched in 2011 that lets advertisers track the performance of their online campaigns. Alan Wurtzel, president of Research and Media Development at NBCUniversal, said the "holy grail" for TV networks would be to use a single ratings format to track how content is viewed on any device—televisions, computers, smartphones or tablets. "This is something that gets us a little closer," he said. "That's why we're anxious to participate." Mr. Wurtzel said tracking viewing on tablets is becoming vital. He said NBC's content is gaining large audiences on tablets. "We're just not getting credit for it," he said. "If you can't measure it, you can't sell it." News Corp., owner of Fox, also owns The Wall Street Journal. Wall Street Journal

Republican Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati said that while everyone in the Capitol remains obsessed with getting a liquor privatization bill passed before the legislature's summer break, the clock is also ticking (and loudly) to get a state budget signed into law. Speaking at the monthly press club luncheon in Harrisburg Monday, Scarnati said legislative leaders have yet to meet with Gov. Corbett about his proposed $28.4 billion spending proposal for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

And, he noted, the state's financial situation is far from rosy: as it stands now, revenues are falling short and cannot sustain spending set in the current budget. "So we are going to fixate ourselves on liquor, and not have a budget meeting?" said Scarnati, of Jefferson County. "We have not had a substantive meeting on the budget yet, and it's almost May. And revenues are not looking good, and we still have a lot of legislative priorities to get through." "Hopefully we can move something forward within the time frame that the governor would like to see," the senator said.

But there are only nine weeks left between now and June 30th (counting this one) and Scarnati said "the last thing I want to be part of is creating another system that doesn't work. Let's get it right." The Corbett administration has been pushing hard for the Senate to swiftly take up the liquor privatization bill that passed the House of Representatives in March. That measure would gradually phase out State Stores, while at the same time allowing private entrepreneurs to begin selling wine and hard liquor. Getting a privatization bill passed and signed into law this year is considered key to Corbett's reelection chances, and the governor and his staff have made it one of their top priorities. But Scarnati reinforced Monday what has been known for a while now to most: there is little support in the Senate for the House's privatization proposal. And so the Senate will hold three hearings - the first one is scheduled for tomorrow at 9:30 a.m. in the Capitol - with the intent of making changes to the House's bill.