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Same old claims from Nielsen, it must wake up to Netflix realities

The same inevitable conclusion has been reached for the umpteenth time by leading US TV watcher Nielsen, that yet again during 2010 the average Americ


Published: 23 June, 2011


The same inevitable conclusion has been reached for the umpteenth time by leading US TV watcher Nielsen, that yet again during 2010 the average American watched more TV – up by 22 minutes a month over the previous quarter, up to 159 hours viewing TV per month.

This is the traditional conclusion for what has become a quarterly reporting service from Nielsen called its Cross Platform Report – which is supposed to take in pay TV, broadcast TV and the watching of streaming video on a laptop and also on smartphones.

There are at least two things which makes alarm bells ring when we read this type of release from Nielsen – the first is that although the report is quarterly this is the first time that a press release has been issued with conclusions from the report. What this means is that this is the first quarter when a comparison with this time last year is possible – in effect it is the start of the service and there have been no previous press releases containing data about Cross Platform viewing.

You have to be really careful believing a company that has a vested interest to say that TV is healthy and doing fine, and which doesn’t want to show the world how much streaming there is. Which brings us to the other point – its survey of some 7,500 people asks about streaming to a PC, but does not ask about streaming to a TV. It asks about DVD and DVR viewing, but not streaming to a DVD player.

So this is a cross platform report, which is not fully cross platform, and refuses to accept that Netflix – the biggest challenge that pay TV in the US has ever faced – even exists, and that TV Everywhere can only be terminated at a PC, which is not the case. This is because Nielsen makes some comparisons with last year’s Q1 Three Screen Report, which of course doesn’t take in video streamed to a smart TV. It will probably be another year before it has enough data on streams to TV sets, and guess what, it will headline with TV being healthy.

Nielsen says that TV in the home includes live usage plus any playback viewing within the measurement period, Timeshifted TV is playback primarily on a DVR but includes playback from VOD, DVD recorders, server based DVR’s and services like Start Over. So it doesn’t include catch up TV services sent over the internet, so not Hulu Plus either.

We think there is a considerable element of the Kings new clothes about this report and if Nielsen can be trusted to bring good data to the party, it won’t be for some years when it has all of the elements of a multi-screen strategy. Tablets for instance are not mentioned and we’re sure it plans to collect that data, but it needs a year or so of data before it’s of any use it seems.

The truth is that people probably ARE watching more TV, on average, in a recession, when you include all the out of work people that can’t do much else. But if you add TV Everywhere to the TV and Netflix to the TV, then Nielsen’s figures would be MUCH, MUCH higher – and we can’t see that. Facebook alone should have accounted for some of those hours (although many people use Facebook and watch TV at the same time).

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