New media upends TV ratings system

Thu Oct 1, 2009 8:41am EDT
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Basil Katz

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The explosion of ways people watch television is confounding the media industry, which has relied for decades on the Nielsen ratings but now must adapt to the realities of the Internet and on-demand video.

Americans are watching more TV than ever -- an average of 151 hours a month -- on more networks and in increasingly diverse ways. Industry heavyweights and analysts are calling for a new ratings system to keep up.

At first there was a "crisis in measurement" due to the scarcity of data, said Alan Wurtzel, president of research and media development at NBC Universal, which is 80-percent owned by General Electric Co.

But now, he said, content providers are "drowning in data."

Broadcasters, content providers and advertisers including consumer products giants Unilever and Procter & Gamble Co are all trying to adapt.

"In the past one-and-a-half years there has been a geometric increase in consumers' access to the Internet for video, and the metrics market has not kept up," Wurtzel said.

Though little more than 2 percent of television viewing is done on the Internet,, which combines video from 150 broadcasters on a single platform, has seen its audience grow fourfold in the last year, according to The Conference Board/TNS. Hulu is a joint venture owned by media giants NBC, News Corp and The Walt Disney Co.


<p>A man watches a presentation of a new flat screen TV model at the Internationale Funkausstellung (IFA) consumer electronics fair in Berlin, September 7, 2009. REUTERS/Thomas Peter</p>