The Way TV Ratings Are Determined Is Getting A Big Change

In what has increasingly been a transformative year for TV and film due to COVID-19, Nielsen–an information, data, and measurement firm synonymous with TV ratings–has finalized a decision that could signal greater potential growth in television. Michael Mulvihill, the executive vice president and head of strategy and analytics for Fox Sports, revealed on Twitter that today is a “significant day” as “for the first time TV viewing outside the home will be fully integrated into Nielsen’s national TV ratings.”

This isn’t a decision spurred on by the coronavirus pandemic–the move to measure ratings with new methods has been in the works for several years–but the overlap will answer “a lot of interesting questions… this year,” Mulvihill said, including: “How will news and business networks, already soaring during the pandemic, grow with OOH? What time periods will suddenly become more attractive for sports events? Which sports will benefit most?”

Nilsen’s shift is meant to reflect the changing habits of modern TV viewers, and comes after years of testing. (You can read more about the firm’s thinking here) The updated system could mean the ever-popular fan campaigns to “save” certain series could be rendered either moot or much more infrequent–in addition to there now being so many more platforms to house content and popular series, marketers and networks alike will now have ways to make time watching TV not on TV “count.”

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