Nielsen to add mobile to TV ratings, but will they still be “bad boyfriend”?

Variety’s Todd Spangler has the story of how Nielsen, the long-time leader in TV ratings, is finally beginning to enter the modern age with mobile viewing integration.

The long-gestating project – Nielsen first started to try and integrate mobile three years ago – is about to take another stutter step forward, as the company will announce a timetable next week for when TV clients will be able to factor in linear viewing on mobile devices (smartphones and tablets) to its national TV ratings.

Great, right? Maybe, but here’s the thing: they’re making announcement basically saying that integrated mobile, online and broadcast won’t be ready for a whole ‘nother year, which is a loooong time in today’s media environment.

The effort will be offered alongside the company’s effort to measure online and social viewing, which is being measured as part of its broader Digital Program Ratings, which incorporates data from a partnership with Facebook. With all this, it’s clear the company is moving towards the modern reality of four-screen, time-shifted viewing of today, but are they going far enough fast enough?

Maybe. But as this great quote from the head of Viacom’s chief research officer Colleen Fahey-Rush shows, there’s some skepticism and built-in resentment against the long-time ratings leader:

“They (Nielsen) have a lot to deliver, kind of like the bad boyfriend who keeps letting you down but you can’t break up with him, because he’s the only boy in the whole school.”

Clearly other aggressive and interested parties like  Twitter and ESPN also have an idea of how TV should be measured in the modern age, so the danger for Nielsen is that they move too slow.  To use a tortured sports metaphor, there’s a chance by the time they get to where the puck is as they see it today, it will be somewhere completely different a year from now.


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