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Major Change to How Nielsen Determines TV Ratings, Details on the Beeper-Like Device for Out-Of-Home Viewers

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There is expected to be major changes in TV ratings moving forward, especially involving sports, as Nielsen begins counting out-of-home viewership. Viewers will now be counted from places such as bars, restaurants, and airports. Viewers will also be counted if they take their mobile devices from the home and use those to watch.

This latest Nielsen tool is supposed to make a huge change in sports ratings moving forward, particularly major sporting events, and generally for the NFL, according to F4Wonline.com. WWE and AEW will also be affected, but likely on a much smaller scale.

OutKick’s Ryan Glasspiegel noted that Nielsen counting out-of-home viewership is a game-changer, and a huge deal that can’t be overstated. OutKick reports that the out-of-home viewership will be incorporated into the numbers that Nielsen currently releases the day after events. While household rating numbers will remain constant, viewership is going to be an inexact comparison to previous year’s numbers.

Nielsen will reportedly measure out-of-home viewership via a beeper-like device carried by people who are in Nielsen’s measurement sample. The device will capture and recognize the audio of what people are watching away from their homes. OutKick noted that this will go for everywhere from a friend’s home, to a hotel, bar, gym, restaurant, and so on – hundreds of places. It was noted that an interesting aspect will be if people remember to carry the device, when they’re already leaving the house with things like wallets, keys, and phones. Nielsen household samples have to opt in to the company’s in-home measurement tools, but this new way of counting views involves an extra step in carrying the device with you.

It was noted that there will also be interesting scenarios at bars and restaurants that air sports programming, but also play music during commercial breaks. One Nielsen source speculated to OutKick that in this scenario, if there’s a 200-minute game and the sound of the game is on for 160 minutes, then the viewer would be counted for 160 minutes in the average minute audience, but not the other 40 minutes. It was also said that any time a viewer watches something with headphones while out of the house, such as the gym, the data won’t be counted as streaming numbers are measured separately from TV viewership.

OutKick said it’s highly likely that sports will benefit, and the daytime talk shows on ESPN or FS1 could also see a bump as they are on in bars and restaurants throughout the country, but they will need to have the sound on. F4Wonline.com reported how there’s a feeling that this will help the NFL a lot, and will really help sports leagues more than anything else, especially local sports teams as people often go out to watch their favorite local teams.

It was also noted by F4Wonline.com that the sports world has been waiting for a change like this as ratings decline each year, and now there’s an idea that they will have a comeback year, or at least a year where the declines are not as bad. Previous tests have found that this method increases the number of younger viewers, which means the key younger demographics that have been hurt in recent years may see a comeback. Previous tests also found that this method skews more heavily towards female viewers. There’s an idea, based on previous experiments, that out-of-home viewing will skew closer to a 50/50 split on male and female viewers.

Michael Mulvihill, who is the FOX Sports Executive Vice President and Head of Strategy that often tweets about Nielsen data, noted on Twitter yesterday that the change by Nielsen is significant, and a big deal for sports. He tweeted the following comments:

“It’s a significant day in our little TV biz. Today for the first time TV viewing outside the home will be fully integrated into Nielsen’s national TV ratings. This is a big deal for sports. Basically from the day I started at Fox the two things that were often talked about as potential game-changers for sports TV were legal gambling and out-of-home ratings. Now they’re both here. Sports already dominates any ranking of TV’s most-watched shows. With the inclusion of out-of-home, how much more will sports control the high end of the TV marketplace?

“How will news and business networks, already soaring during the pandemic, grow with OOH? What time periods will suddenly become more attractive for sports events? Which sports will benefit most? A lot of interesting questions will be answered this year. We know from preliminary data that the OOH sports audience is younger, more female and more diverse than the in-home audience. Will that change how sports are valued? We’re already seeing huge impact to local MLB viewing among young people. Credit is due to @Nielsen for seeing this through after years of development and very vigorous debate among their clients. Their job, and it’s a hard one, is to provide the most complete measurement possible and let the marketplace negotiate its value, and they’ve done it.”

Stay tuned for more. You can see Mulvihill’s full tweets below:

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