Will Nielsen Streaming Data Change the Future of Television?

While the role of cord cutters has been downplayed, new Nielsen data could change the conversation radically.

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Nielsen Media, the an information and measurement company best known for TV ratings, has enjoyed a cozy relationship with newer Internet services over the last few years. But a few services like Netflix and Hulu have escaped independent monitoring. Now, under a new initiative, Nielsen will be analyzing streaming data without the cooperation of the streaming providers.

This isn’t the first time Nielsen has paid attention to video-streaming services. In 2013, the company added tracking to the software used in sample homes that tracked time spent on streaming services, but not content viewed. The new monitoring will sample and analyze the audio of streamed programming to get better statistics for viewership.

The monitoring is primarily for the private television sector, and it’s unclear if Nielsen will publicize the data. “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 ?” Nielsen senior VP Brian Fuhrer told The Hollywood Reporter.

According to THR, this move could give networks greater leverage in negotiating with Netflix and other streaming providers. Indeed, Netflix could have held a lot of the power in negotiations, mostly because of its large reach. However, providing both sides of the negotiations with the same viewership data could prove disadvantageous for Netflix.

DSLreports.com notes that Nielsen has downplayed the role of cord cutters in the past and that analyzing this new data could radically change the conversation around cord cutting for traditional media companies. In fact, Nielsen is already seeing a decrease in TV viewership:

The Nielsen documents also contain some of the strongest data to date 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.

Cord cutting is a very real phenomenon, a fact that SocialTimes has alluded to many times. Mobile device usage is increasing, which alone is facilitating cord cutters. HBO has seen the writing on the wall, and will soon begin offering HBO Go, its streaming service, as a standalone product.

This move could be a radical change for the streaming industry, perhaps positively if Nielsen and the big media companies begin to understand that streaming might be the only way forward.