Nielsen Expands Connected TV Measurement to YouTube and YouTube TV

First phase, arriving in 2021, comes as viewership has soared

Nielsen and YouTube TV logos
The move will let media buyers and sellers track audiences across the YouTube and YouTube TV apps on connected TV devices. Nielsen, YouTube
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Nielsen is bringing YouTube’s campaign measurement under one roof. Ads watched on YouTube and YouTube TV on connected TV devices will be added to Nielsen’s Digital Ad Ratings and Nielsen’s Total Ad ratings beginning next year, Nielsen said today.

The move will allow media buyers and sellers to track audiences across both the YouTube and YouTube TV apps on connected TVs, as well as on mobile and digital screens, which Nielsen already measures. The addition of connected TV devices will allow marketers to better understand the success of their YouTube and YouTube TV campaigns across platforms and across screens, according to Scott Brown, Nielsen’s head of audience measurement.

“Right now, the view for YouTube is reach and frequency across mobile and computers, and we also include that data in our cross-platform product, which helps YouTube and their advertisers understand incremental reach of YouTube against linear TV,” Brown said. “Adding in connected TV is a really important part in completing that full-spectrum view.”

The first phase of the measurement expansion is expected to roll out in the first half of 2021, and will begin on YouTube TV, YouTube’s virtual MVPD offering, Nielsen said. Measurement on the YouTube app will be folded in shortly thereafter.

Nielsen’s move to measure connected TV campaigns on YouTube and YouTube TV comes at a moment of growth for YouTube, which has reported viewership surges on connected TV devices as stay-at-home-orders and other limitations to out-of-home activities have translated into high home entertainment and connected TV usage across the board.

YouTube, which said connected TV viewership in March was up 80% year over year, moved to fast-track a number of connected TV features, including skippable ads and a Brand Lift survey format, in May. The company has also moved to leverage connected TV inventory in pitches with advertisers during this year’s NewFronts.

Debbie Weinstein, YouTube’s vice president, global solutions, said more than 100 million people in the U.S. watch YouTube and YouTube TV on their connected TVs every month.

 “Advertisers are asking for third-party measurement partners like Nielsen to provide a complete view of YouTube and YouTube TV audiences, so they can understand the scale of the audience they’re able to reach through CTV campaigns,” she said in a statement.

Adding YouTube’s connected TV inventory to Nielsen measurement was not one that was prompted by the pandemic, though discussions about bringing the expanded measurement had been in the works before Covid-19 hit, Brown said.

“Certainly, the massive amount of streaming that’s been happening since March up until now just amplifies the desire from marketers to have more third-party measurement to understand the audiences since they’re growing, since they’re changing, since they’re continuously fragmenting,” Brown said.

Nielsen has already integrated connected TV campaign measurement on other platforms, including Amazon, Hulu and Roku, but the addition of YouTube substantially expands the company’s advanced TV footprint as the measurement firm continues to work toward new ways to measure audiences across screens. But as the industry moves to solve measurement, the evolving TV landscape is becoming more complex. As more platforms and services continue to fragment viewers, viewership data remains within those separate platforms, making a complete measurement picture opaque.

There’s hope that will soon change, and demand from marketers for better and more complete measurement in the space continues to grow “every month,” Brown said.

“The world is starting to converge where more addressable advertising is coming into the living room, which is exciting for the industry and ultimately for marketers,” he said. “Hopefully more measurement like this will give consumers a better experience, too, because no one wants to see the same ads over and over again or see irrelevant ads.”

@kelseymsutton Kelsey Sutton is the streaming editor at Adweek, where she covers the business of streaming television.