Nielsen To Begin Measuring Online TV Audiences

    September 10, 2009

Nielsen has been measuring television audiences for decades. Now online TV is starting to take over—but do we have accurate measurement of the online TV audience?

comScore and other online measurement companies are watching videos—I mean, online video audiences—grow and grow. Now Nielsen will use a new “Internet Meter” with its People Meter families to measure online as well as offline TV consumption.

The Internet Meter will measure the “extended screen”—online television from cable companies, such as OnDemand Online from Comcast and TV Everywhere from Time Warner. This type of viewing may have slipped past online measurement companies looking at web-based TV, like from Hulu. Nielsen has worked in online measurement as well, though they don’t say if they’ll be combining Hulu numbers with the online cable numbers.

According to Read Write Web, Hulu has tended to prefer comScore’s measures of its audience, since comScore’s numbers have shown a higher viewership than Nielsen’s. Online measurement is notoriously tricky in this area, since there aren’t set industry standards on how to count audiences, and as always, there can be sampling biases.

RWW says that the Internet Meter might combat inherent problems in sampling—but the Internet Meter will be based on the same statistical principles, which are fairly sound. (Yeah, I know, it doesn’t seem like a small number of people can accurately predict the habits of the general population, and a larger sample usually yields more accurate data, but if people are truly chosen at random, a small sample has a 90-95% chance of accurately reflecting the population, depending on how they do their calculations. </AP stats lesson>)

What do you think? Will this make a difference to online television? Will it affect ad prices online?