Nielsen’s ratings will start counting Hulu and YouTube’s new TV services, as it moves to embrace the digital realm

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YouTube TV app in action Hollis Johnson

In a push to more accurately reflect the new ways people watch TV, Nielsen announced Tuesday that it will start incorporating YouTube TV and Hulu’s live TV programming into its traditional TV ratings.

Hulu and YouTube both launched their own live TV streaming services within the past four months, creating even more platforms for viewers to choose from. These services function much like your traditional cable TV package, but are delivered over data to your smart TV, phone, and so on (like Netflix).

How many people are watching?

Networks have criticised Nielsen for the absence of some digital platform views in their TV ratings for some time, claiming that without full digital streaming numbers, they don’t have a truly accurate read on program views.

The television industry has been working for years to figure out the most effective way to collect data from all viewing platforms, but has yet to find an ideal solution.

Nielsen has been pushing toward that goal by creating the Total Content Ratings (TCR) report, which promises to report wide-ranging data from multiple platforms. Since March, that program has been in a “limited commercial release,” after some n
etworks lobbied for its wide release to be delayed, citing concerns about accuracy.

Linda Yaccarino, NBCU’s chairman of advertising sales and client partnerships, wrote a strongly worded letter to Nielsen back in December, asking Nielsen to delay, according to Variety.

Yaccarino wrote, “Some say ‘something is better than nothing.’ We disagree.” Yaccarino continued to criticise Nielsen in her letter saying that, “Bad, inaccurate and misleading data is far worse than no data at all.”

Still, networks like CBS have started to tout the TCR data, and Nielsen incorporating this new Hulu and YouTube data is a step in the TCR direction.

Nielsen will collect data for Hulu and YouTube’s live programming in the same way it has for live linear channels, including DVR and streaming views that happen three to seven days post-premiere of an episode. But older episodes of television shows still available on Hulu and YouTube won’t be factored into these ratings, nor will the programming offered on the original Hulu streaming package.