Nielsen teams with Facebook on a new OTT measurement tactic, social listening

Facing a growing demand from the advertising and television industries for more reliable measurement of streaming media, Nielsen is partnering up with Facebook (NASDAQ: FB) to morph its current Twitter TV Ratings into a new metric it has dubbed "Social Content Ratings," The New York Times reports.

The TV ratings stalwart will continue to monitor Twitter and will also integrate data from Instagram at a later date, according to an e-mail from Nielsen. The new ratings metric will be available sometime in the first half of 2016 to customers in the U.S., Australia, Italy and Mexico markets.

By monitoring multiple top social media sites for user chatter about TV programs and streamed content from services like Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX), Nielsen hopes to provide a more holistic view of the total audience. Currently, the top SVOD services hold their audience stats close to the vest; while Netflix routinely reports the total number of subscribers to its service, it does not release data about what those subscribers watch, for how long, where they browse to after a program ends, and so on. Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) doesn't report the exact number of its Prime subscribers, only mentioning general growth rates such as signing 3 million new subs around Christmastime 2015 -- and it's not known how many of its subscribers actually use Prime Instant Video.

With no reliable way to monitor what viewers are choosing to stream, Nielsen can only find out what viewers are talking about instead. Hence its interest in measuring social media engagement.

"Every day, television fans from around the world use Facebook to talk about the shows and stars they love with the people that matter most to them," said Nick Grudin, director of media partnerships at Facebook, in the announcement. "Fans connect with each other while the show is airing and continue the conversation throughout the week in between episodes. We're excited that Nielsen's Social Content Ratings will now reflect the social conversation around television in its entirety."

While Nielsen says in its announcement that it's the first service to measure program-related chatter on Facebook and Twitter, it's actually joining a number of firms that have implemented "social listening" measurement programs. Toronto-based Engagement Labs, for example, routinely puts out an "eValue" chart that monitors chatter about TV programs on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, and includes a "Word of Mouth" survey conducted by Keller Fay. Another company, ListenFirst Media, scans more than a dozen social media sites to gather data for 40-plus TV networks, according to the Times.

Getting a detailed reading on the total audience, its behaviors and opinions isn't just a nice metric to have: TV networks are changing how they keep or cancel series based on those figures. Engagement Labs found, for example, that some low-rated network TV shows score very high in terms of being talked about on social media. With indicators of audience interest, networks have given some series new life -- and put others on notice by cutting their episode orders.

 For more:
- see the announcement
- see this NYT article (sub. req.)

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