Nielsen Unveils Streaming Ratings for ‘Orange is the New Black,’ ‘Seinfeld’ | via WSJ

Orange is the New Black via NetflixWSJ

By AMOL SHARMA

Nielsen unveiled its first findings on viewership of TV shows on streaming services on Wednesday, providing data about select programs to media partners at a conference in Las Vegas, according to a presentation by the measurement specialist that was reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

For the past few years media companies have clamored for information about how TV shows perform on subscription video services like Netflix, Amazon and Hulu, which don’t release ratings. 

The new data from Nielsen are being shared privately with studios—except for whatever they agree to release more widely. They include metrics such as the total audience for episodes, the breakdown by age groups, and indications of whether streaming viewers are more likely to follow a show on traditional TV.

The presentation cites three examples of shows that performed well—data that the TV studios were willing to share.

The fourth season of “Orange is the New Black,” a Lions Gate production available on Netflix, came out of the gate strong between June 17 and June 19. The premiere episode was watched by 6.7 million people in the U.S., which would be comparable to the second most-viewed cable drama on TV behind HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” while the second episode was watched by 5.9 million people, according to the data Nielsen presented to clients.

Reruns of “Seinfeld,” which are available on Hulu, reached 706,000 U.S. viewers in the first five days they were available, growing to 334,000 viewers on the fifth day from 186,000 on the first day, the presentation data showed.

Unsurprisingly, the audiences for streaming services tend to be younger than for traditional TV. Some 44% of streaming viewers of “Better Call Saul,” a production of Sony Pictures Television available on Netflix, are between the ages of 18 and 34, compared with 24% on traditional TV.

Nielsen is only tracking streaming data for TV studios that “opt in,” meaning those that ask for information on any shows or individual episodes for particular time frames. Studios provide audio files of their programs and Nielsen employs audio fingerprinting technology in its panel of 40,000 U.S. homes to measure viewing.

The studios may be tracking many more shows, including ones that have performed poorly, that weren’t in Nielsen’s presentation.

Nielsen’s effort to measure streaming TV has been controversial. Netflix has argued that ratings for shows on its service have little meaning, since it doesn’t sell advertising. And the streaming juggernaut has said comparisons to traditional TV are difficult, since online viewing is all on-demand and stretches over longer time frames. Netflix’s service is global, and Nielsen’s figures only reflect U.S. viewing.

Unlike traditional TV ratings, the streaming data aren’t being circulated widely in the industry, limiting companies’ ability to compare how their shows are performing against those made by competing studios.

Still, the data could provide valuable insights to studios who must periodically negotiate with Netflix, Amazon and Hulu over licensing fees for their shows.

Some media executives have been growing concerned that the rise of Netflix has eaten into traditional TV viewing, and have begun to reconsider whether their approach of recent years, licensing high volumes of content to Netflix and making it available there relatively quickly, still makes sense.

The Nielsen presentation said 52% of U.S. households now have some form of subscription streaming video service, up from about 40% two years ago. The presentation said 16% of people who watch a show on Netflix also watch it on traditional TV.

Write to Amol Sharma at amol.sharma@wsj.com

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