For years, we've noted how popular TV ratings firm Nielsen has turned a bit of a blind eye to cord cutting and the Internet video revolution, on one hand declaring that the idea of cord cutting was "pure fiction," while on the other hand admitting it wasn't actually bothering to track TV viewing on mobile devices. It's not surprising; Nielsen's bread and butter is paid for by traditional cable executives, and really, who wants to take the time to pull all those collective heads of out of the sand to inform them that their precious pay TV cash cow is dying?
Eventually, the cord cutting trend became too big to ignore, forcing Nielsen to change its tune and start acknowledging the very real trend (though they called it "zero TV households" instead of cordcutters). Broadcasters (especially those hardest hit by cord cutting) didn't much like that, and began bullying the stat firm when it showed data that didn't jive with the view a foot below ground. While Nielsen slowly improved its methodologies, it would occassionally back off on certain data collection and reporting changes if the cable and broadcast industry complained loudly enough.
Ironically, this fealty to wishful thinking may not pay dividends for Nielsen. Nearly every broadcasters in your cable lineup is expected to launch their own streaming service by 2022. Many of these companies (like CBS) are now considering ditching Nielsen because, they claim, it's charging too much money for a user tracking system that hasn't adapted for the streaming era:
"At issue is a long-running complaint from TV networks that Nielsen isn’t measuring the many different audiences for their programming as well as it should. As smartphones, mobile tablets and broadband-connected TV’s gain more consumer acceptance, audiences are increasingly able to stream their TV favorites in on-demand fashion, making the task of counting them exponentially more difficult. TV networks have long based their advertising rates on Nielsen’s measure of linear TV audiences, which have slipped as consumers embraced Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime and other streaming and on-demand options.
In this environment, TV networks believe Nielsen’s overnight ratings are no longer as reliable a barometer of viewership as they once were.
Go figure. It's ironic that Nielsen often went out of its way to show cable and broadcast executives a narrative they desperately wanted to believe, only to find itself (potentially) booted by broadcasters who no longer see Nielsen's measurement systems as an accurate barometer of customer viewing habits in the cord cutting era.
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