Nielsen Begins Tracking Netflix and Streaming Shows

We'll finally find out how many people watch 'House of Cards.'

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Until now, the success or failure of a Netflix show has been largely measured in column inches (well, Facebook likes, it’s 2015), but that’s about to change. Ratings-tracking company Nielsen has decided to get with the times and begin measuring audience numbers on streaming programs. What this means for the mother of all time wasters is that the internal metrics are going to go public and bombs will be more readily identified as such. Basically, no one will be pretending Marco Polo works anymore.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Nielsen is months into a data gathering effort built around a program developed to track numbers on up to 1,000 different streaming shows from providers like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime. There’s no word yet on what exactly the mysterious program is or what information it captures, but the relevant information here is about demographics and about time on site. Are people watching entire episodes of Bloodline or just tuning in to check out the latest in short sleeve shirt styles?

The move won’t affect casual streaming audiences, so the importance of Nielsen’s new program has everything to do with the studios.

Heavy hitters like Twentieth Century Fox and Universal will now be able to negotiate higher licensing fees from streaming services based on hard numbers to determine revenues. Netflix reportedly only provides certain studios with information about monthly streaming data and nothing more. The conversation about numbers is presumably going to become a bit more honest and a bit more contentious.

At the same time, Nielsen’s numbers may help delineate the popularity of original streaming programs versus licensed shows, which could potentially diminish Netflix or Amazon Prime’s affection for unique programming. With the debate over cord-cutting raging on, Nielsen’s data could help studios make up for losses stemming from viewers abandoning more lucrative ad-supported network TV.

If nothing else, we’ll get to know how many people start watching Narcos this weekend.

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