TV | November 13, 2021 3:59 pm

Changes Are Coming to How We Measure Television Ratings

Nielsen ratings aren't the only game in town

Television
Are Nielsen ratings slated for a change?
Diego González/Unsplash

For decades now, the Nielsen ratings system has been synonymous with the measurement of how many people are watching a particular television series or event. But being ubiquitous doesn’t necessarily mean the same thing as being universally embraced. A 2011 article at Vulture was headlined “Why Nielsen Ratings Are Inaccurate, and Why They’ll Stay That Way” — and the 10 years since then have only seen more confusion and frustration from television executives and producers.

Now, it seems like a change is on the horizon. A new article by Tiffany Hsu at The New York Times explores the rise of a number of alternatives to Nielsen ratings — and the embrace that several have received from television networks and streaming providers.

The Times article cites an upcoming NBCUniversal event, which Hsu describes as “a forum to discuss alternative ways to measure its audience” — along with the same network’s exploration of new ways to quantify just how many people are watching its programming. And while Nielsen submitted a proposal for the latter, it’s under even more scrutiny than usual, in part due to the pandemic’s effects on its data.

While Nielsen has a number of competitors, there’s also some concern over how this might affect the ability of networks and advertisers to quantify viewers. What happens when two (or more) different methods of measuring viewership offer conflicting numbers? It could further complicate an already-messy landscape — or it might be a deepening of the industry that’s long overdue.