So far, Netflix hasn’t played the ratings game, preferring to stay tight-lipped about the number of people who have been binge-watching, say, Gilmore Girls for the past month. (We can say definitively, however, that the number is at least one.)
Next month, though, according to the Wall Street Journal, Nielsen will start tracking viewership data on Netflix and Amazon Instant Video. The move by Nielsen to circumvent streaming services’ unwillingness to share data is an important one for the company, whose relevance has suffered as Netflix and the like have assumed a more prominent position in the entertainment marketplace.
Nielsen plans to cull information from audio tracks to determine which offerings are (or aren’t) being streamed, which doesn’t require the consent of streaming services. (Hulu, however, already has its audience measured by Nielsen for desktop usage.) The technology won’t yet be able to gauge streaming on mobile devices.
The push to dig up this data comes largely from Nielsen’s media clients, some of whom worry that streaming their content is losing them money that they’d otherwise get from ad-supported television. Just last fall, Nielsen launched an effort to take tweets into consideration in evaluating TV show ratings. The company noted that Twitter chatter could actually increase ratings.
Nielsen’s attempt at upping transparency will put a bit more power in the hands of studio execs, though it’s hard to say how much: 40% of American households now have a streaming video subscription, up 6% from January. Nielsen also confirmed that you’re not the only one who’s traded traditional TV for the comforting glow of Netflix–on average, subscribers to streaming services watch 20% less TV than nonsubscribers.