Nielsen is finally realizing its dream of tracking mobile TV metrics, and Facebook deserves much of the credit.
As part of a larger shift, the media measurement giant is matching user information -- “in a privacy safe way,” of course -- from Facebook and other data providers, and then calibrating it with data from its National People Meter panel.
Per the pact, Facebook is expected to share the age and gender of viewers with Nielsen.
Nielsen has an existing TV partnership with Twitter, but the microblogging leader is not serving as an additional data source for this effort. "Nielsen's relationship with Twitter and the Nielsen Twitter TV Ratings are wholly separate to our measurement of audience viewing behavior," a Nielsen spokeswoman said Wednesday. "NTTR methodology is completely different and doesn't impact TV Ratings at all."
Trying to keep up with dramatic shifts in media consumption habits, tracking mobile TV metrics has been a top priority for Nielsen. Last summer, the company completed a trial with CBS local TV stations, which allowed it to track streaming through a local TV app from Syncbak using the Nielsen SDK (software development kit).
Then, last October, Nielsen unveiled a new SDK with the power to track TV viewing on smartphones and other devices along with its TV ratings service.
Among other critical innovations, a “unified encoding approach for video enables measurement to follow content across screens and ad models,” Megan Clarken, EVP and global product leader at Nielsen, noted in a related blog post.
Now, when networks make their shows available for viewing on a digital service – as long as they meet all “ad load and timeline requirements for TV ratings” -- the resulting views should be added to Nielsen’s overall TV ratings.
As with its standard method of tracking ratings through home-based meters, the new SDK uses audio watermarks, as well as tags and other metadata on TV shows and their ads.
The company has said that it is also counting on “big data and a census-style measurement approach” to amass demographic data about streaming audiences.
Not their first dance, Nielsen and Facebook have ties going back to 2009 when the pair started sharing user data. Yet, to be clear, Facebook and Nielsen are not actively trading personal information about individual users, according to Nielsen's spokeswoman. "It would be more accurate to say that Facebook has been a data provider to Nielsen since 2009," she said.