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Nielsen adds Netflix ratings, but with one major caveat

Nielsen is now tracking Netflix but its method in doing so has one massive caveat. What it is and how it could hurt the streaming service?

Published onOctober 19, 2017

Netflix Mobile

Cord cutting is rapidly becoming the new normal. No longer do people have the patience to sit down at a television and wait for a show to start. We’ve become accustomed to opening up an app and streaming a show or movie on demand. The entire entertainment industry has taken notice and we’ve seen more and more content move into streaming services. These can range from a network-owned platform like CBS All Access (which has the brilliant Star Trek: Discovery) to something like Amazon Prime or Netflix that streams content from many different partners.

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Back in the old days, a TV show’s success was judged mostly on its Nielsen ratings. Not only do Nielsen ratings tell companies how many people are watching, but they give a rough estimation on who makes up that audience and how interested they are in the program. That’s one aspect that has been missing from the streaming scene for a while now, but Nielsen is moving to change that.

Nielsen has announced that it will start collecting data on Netflix’s streaming service and will add Amazon Prime and Hulu in 2018. Companies like A&E, Disney, Lionsgate, NBCUniversal, and Warner Brothers will get a better look at how its programs are performing on Netflix’s platform. Since Netflix doesn’t release streaming data, we currently have no idea how many people are streaming each show or the makeup of the audience.

Unfortunately, Nielsen’s methodology will be flawed right out of the gate. It won’t be taking mobile devices into account for these numbers. That means no shows you stream on the bus on the way to work will be counted. No late night binging sessions on your favorite Android tablet will factor in. Since cord cutters are generally a little more technology-focused than the general population, you can see how this could be a problem. For its part, Netflix responded with this statement to Variety:

The data that Nielsen is reporting is not accurate, not even close, and does not reflect the viewing of these shows on Netflix.

Can Nielsen’s old formula accurately capture what’s happening on a new platform? Only time will tell. Media executives, advertisers, and the general public will all have interest in these numbers for varying reasons. But, the real question is, how can Nielsen shift its methodology to accurately capture whats being streamed? If it continues to track more services without counting mobile devices, it could truly hurt some of these platforms by massively under-reporting numbers.

What do you think about Nielsen monitoring Netflix? Do you think it can get an accurate picture without counting mobile streaming? Will you put any stock into its ratings? Let us know down in the comments.

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