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CNN Streaming Audience Will Be Tough to Measure

Online chief says usage will drive better metrics

John Shearer/WireImage via Getty

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CNN’s online chief, KC Estenson, says he isn’t all that concerned about the fact that he can’t yet measure a new chunk of his audience. “To me, measurement follows usage,” Estenson says. “Ideally, you put a product on the market that’s fully measured. But it’s important to us that we get our content out to as many people as possible… as quickly as possible. ”

Earlier today, CNN announced that it would be making its linear cable television content available online and on mobile devices. It’s a goal that nearly everyone in the cable world outwardly pays lip service to, but so far there have been major impediments to putting television content online. The first is authentication—that is, making sure cable content is only accessed online or on mobile devices by current cable subscribers. In CNN's cause, only Verizon, Comcast, AT&T and Dish customers will be able to access the new service.

But even with authentication, audience measurement will still be difficult. Nielsen is the industry standard when it comes to measuring audience in the linear television world—but the problem is that Nielsen does not yet offer a similar ratings service for video viewing on mobile platforms. Thus, CNN won't have an independent read on number of viewers accessing their content via iPhone or iPad (and thus no concrete viewership number it can use to sell ads against).

“We can only do the Nielsen rating across TV and web. Not mobile,” says Estenson. So far, just Apple-made devices though Estenson says that the Droid will be equipped for CNN live streaming soon as well. “I’m not saying that we don’t care about measurement," he adds, "But we have full faith an confidence that will come.” In the meantime, Estenson says that CNN’s bet is ad buyers will be enticed by the promise of a large audience, even if the figures aren’t concrete. “Doing right by the consumer will ultimately mean doing the right thing by our advertisers. Our advertisers want to reach as many people as possible in their demographics on as many devices as possible.”