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Web viewers now counted in TV ratings

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The Nielsen company has been tracking television audiences for more than 50 years. Over the past 50 years it's always been the number of people tuning in via a regular television set that are counted most by the networks.

That's all about to change. I
n a sign of our increasingly connected age, the Nielsen Company will finally add streaming viewers to its influential ratings of who's watching what on TV. The new ratings will collect data on people who watch television shows on their computer, tablet and smart phone screens.

Nielsen ratings are used to figure out how many people are watching a show and the demographics of the overall audience. Networks use those numbers to determine how much to charge for ads and even to help make scheduling decisions.

Television sets are still the primary way people watch TV, but online viewers are growing fast. The streaming and mobile audiences tend to skew younger, a coveted age group for advertisers.

Not all online views will count as part of the main Nielsen TV ratings.

Shows that don't include the same ads online as on TV will be counted as part of separate Nielsen Digital Ratings. Shows streamed directly by networks through their own sites and apps typically include the same set of ads, and those viewers are counted towards the traditional Nielsen totals.

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