Streaming: measurement concepts

At the start of 2022, Netflix reported its growth rate of 18mm subscribers for 2021, compared to 37mm in 2020, showing a slowing down of subscriber rates at 222mm worldwide, noting that 90% of paid subscribers adds are outside the U.S. and Canada. This explains its recent rate hikes, since there is now a finite number of North American subscribers. Netflix switched their viewing metric from “two minutes = a watch” to “hours viewed” last fall in a move that is more in line with Nielsen live television ratings. Nielsen charts Netflix, Disney+, Amazon Prime Video and Hulu. Nielsen ratings are updated online for content streamed via television (but not via phones or other devices) and, are limited to U.S. audiences.

WarnerMedia announced it would offer its own audience-measurement data, working with buyers and advertisers on a new measurement concept to replace Nielsen. Nielsen grapples with the limitations as previously noted, and the resulting loss of accreditation status by the Media Rating Council. Yet, media companies reportedly pay hundreds of millions in fees each year to access Nielsen’s services. Such a disruption requires a new metric that counts views on either traditional networks (via broadcast) or on ad-supported streaming hubs (via broadband).

It remains unclear whether Nielsen will evolve. Tracking the reach of advertising among linear and digital viewers seems to be key for WarnerMedia, NBCUniversal, and Paramount Global (ViacomCBS) all of whom have either announced or discussed developing a new measurement concept in lieu of Nielsen. Any new measurement process will need to be certified for use by the Media Rating Council.

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