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Nielsen will start measuring Netflix viewership in December

Targeting a start date next month, the Nielsen company will being tracking viewership of online video on subscription services such as Netflix and Amazon Instant Video. According to details of the project reported by the Wall Street Journal, the company will be analyzing the audio from episodic content on said digital services in order to determine which program is being watched.

While this method of audio-monitoring still won’t address subscribers that watch services like Netflix on mobile devices, it’s definitely a step forward in measuring viewership of online-first content like Netflix’s Orange is the New Black or House of Cards. Of course, the monitoring process would still work when content is being streamed from a mobile device to the main HDTV in a Nielsen home, perhaps using a Google Chromecast or Apple TV.

These measurements will come from existing Nielsen clients that would likely have to agree to audio monitoring, if they haven’t already when first accepting the hardware from Nielsen. Hypothetically, Nielsen could also track the practice of binge watching episodic content in order to determine the average length of time or number of episodes that’s consumed when Netflix or another streaming service is launched.

While this data won’t be particularly useful to companies like Netflix, Hulu or Amazon, Nielsen will be able to go to networks and studios, like NBC or Disney, and provide a report of how licensed content is being consumed through those digital sources. Ultimately, this information could provide leverage in negotiating the renewal of licensing agreements. It could also potentially play into negotiations for original content development, basically for anyone involved in the production of new content.

Netflix has been consistently reluctant to release any data related to online viewership of original or licensed content. When asked about releasing numbers earlier this year, Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos said “No, we don’t plan on releasing our metrics. I honestly believe that our ratings success would spin as a negative story to our suppliers, that we have shows that are being watched in greater numbers than are being watched on television.”