Nielsen will now measure TV audiences on Netflix

Nielsen is hoping to make the viewership numbers for the shows airing on streaming services a little less of a mystery. The company is today announcing a new service, Nielsen Subscription Video On Demand (SVOD) Content Ratings, to measure streaming services’ programs in a way that’s comparable to linear TV. That includes ratings, reaches, frequency and segmentation reporting, Nielsen says.

In other words, the service won’t just track the number of people streaming a show, but the audience makeup as well – like the viewers’ ages, for example. It will also help content producers track their shows’ full lifecycle – from airing on TV, to time-shifted viewing via DVRs and other on-demand options to streaming services.

Nielsen’s new offering initially only works with Netflix, but expects to add Amazon Prime and Hulu in 2018.

Already, the company has lined up a number of testers interested in trying it out, including  NBCUniversal, Disney-ABC, A+E Networks, Lionsgate, Warner Bros. Television, and three (unnamed) others.

It’s interesting to note NBCU’s participation here, given the company had criticized Nielsen in the past, saying that its Total Content Ratings service, which tracks digital viewing of TV shows, was not ready for primetime. A letter from NBCU’s Advertising Sales and Client Partnerships Chairman Linda Yaccarino last year had referred to Nielsen’s data then as “bad,” “inaccurate,” and “misleading.”

Deadline’s report on the launch of the new Nielsen service suggests NBCU may have been late to commit to this new offering as they were the last to announce their participation.

This is not the first time that Nielsen has targeted the streaming space, having been aware of the shift to over-the-top TV for many years now. The company began measuring streaming content in 2014 through an opt-in service, but this new option will tap into the demographic and household characteristic data of the Nielsen TV Panel, the company explains.

However, it will not cover mobile device viewing which could limit the accuracy of the data.

Nielsen had also previously announced the addition of Hulu and YouTube to its TV ratings, as part of its efforts at better measuring the streaming services market.

“The significant growth of SVOD services in entertainment markets across the world has created demand from rights owners to understand the size and composition of audiences relative to other programs and platforms,” said Megan Clarken, President of Watch, Nielsen, in a statement. “The syndication of SVOD measurement as part of Nielsen’s Total Audience offerings represents a big step forward in terms of moving closer to transparency within the SVOD marketplace.”

Netflix, which announced earnings this week, continues to grow both globally and in the U.S. The company surpassed its own expectations, adding 5.3 million new total subscribers – 850,000 from the U.S. and 4.45 million from international markets.