Nielsen ratings are a sore spot with many TV show producers, who argue that the system, which tracks the viewing habits of only 1 percent of Americans who own televisions, does not accurately represent the actual number of people watching their shows.
The ratings can determine the survival of a show and the price of advertising, which has generated public criticism that it does not cover circulation of shows watched via computers, smartphones and tablets — and that there is a certain amount of bias in the reported results, which can be generated from meters or written down manually.
The What Nielsen Measures Committee, a group of representatives from major TV, local TV, cable news and advertising networks, along with several big brand advertisers, met Tuesday, Feb. 19 and because of that event, Nielsen Co. has decided to expand the reach of its tracking capability, says the Hollywood Reporter.
Nielsen expects to have new software and hardware in the 23,000 homes it measures that can track shows watched over streaming services, as well as game consoles, by September 2013, when the next TV season starts. The company's end goal is to be able to measure any kind of TV viewing over any source, but it currently can't track what kinds of shows are being watched online — only how much TV is being watched.
By the end of 2013, Nielsen plans to work closely with clients to enable tracking on iPads. Traditional TV networks already encode programs to work with Nielsen's measurement tools, which can identify and trace a program to its source.
It's important to note that the meeting and the plans are not binding or set in stone, but the Hollywood Reporter says a source at one of the four biggest networks was "ecstatic" that the ratings system would become more comprehensive.
The What Nielsen Measures Committee is pleased about this change, but for the millions of people who watch TV, enjoy obscure cult shows in constant danger of cancellation and do not have Nielsen boxes in their homes, this does not present much of a change or improvement in the system.