Oct. 29--Television may finally be dragged into the world of convenient streaming thanks to Nielsen.
I've frequently ranted at how the TV and movie industry are fighting media streaming with every fiber of their being. Hulu is loaded with all kinds of restrictions, including the inability to watch it on a TV.
Cox Communications recently rolled out a great tablet-based cable guide, but all the major networks have blocked its streaming preview ability, even though the guide has to be chained to a paid cable box. Those are just two inane examples of the fight that does nothing but annoy viewers.
I figured this would go on for years, but Nielsen just provided a shining ray of hope. The company announced that, by next fall, it'll start counting TV programs watched on web browsers, net-connected TVs, DVRs, tablets and smartphones in its TV ratings.
The move is a great reaction to the changing way we consume media and a reminder that viewership counts even when it isn't on a traditional boob tube. We'll also get more accurate counts of total viewership, broken down by device.
Sure, this may not seem all that interesting if you're not a TV industry wonk. This is why you should perk up at the news -- the networks consider Nielsen to be the ultimate source of their money.
TV ratings aren't just a popularity contest. They're the chief way the networks can set how much they charge for ads. Ever notice how the networks cluster new shows and big events on November, February and May? That's because Nielsen conducts its most in-depth audience research during those months, and the networks want to game the system.
In short, this new move now gives networks new sources for an verifiable expanded audience, which means an opportunity for more money.
The music industry finally ended its holy war against downloadable music when iTunes showed how to make money from it. Not only is the expanded TV audience polling a potential new source of money, it's one made by a company the TV industry has trusted with its livelihood since 1950.
Maybe I'm an optimist, but this could be the move that finally causes the networks to make it easy for you to stream whatever show you'd like on whatever device you'd like.
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