TV ratings firm Nielsen, long criticized for being slow to measure media consumption on tablets and smartphones, said it achieved a breakthrough in a two-week technical trial in which it successfully captured viewing on mobile devices.
Nielsen conducted the test in collabortion with technology company Syncbak, whose app enables people to watch live TV broadcasts on their mobile devices, and four
In these markets, Nielsen successfully captured all tablet and smartphone viewing, it said Tuesday. That's a significant milestone for broadcasters, who've expressed frustration at the inability to quantify audiences on these smaller screens.
"We know that consumers are spending more time on their tablets and more time on their smartphones," said Nielsen Senior Vice President Farshad Family. "At the same time, distributors and programmers and broadcasters are making more content available on digital platforms, and we are trying to keep up with that trend."
Syncbak's app, which is available for Apple and Android smartphones and tablets, enables people to watch broadcast TV programming -- but limits viewing to the local market. TV stations, which rely on revenue from local advertisers, are eager to preserve such geographic restrictions in the digital era.
Networks have struggled for years to get from Nielsen what they feel are accurate measurements of TV viewing outside of the home -- be it at the gym or the office. Portable devices only exacerbated the problem of unaccounted viewers.
"With the introduction of smartphones and the introduction of tablets, the ability to watch television programming outside of the home has grown substantially -- and that has resulted in more viewing taking place outside of the home," said David Poltrack,
Poltrack said the network is pleased with the outcome of the test in finding non-traditional TV viewers.
"Once we know Nielsen can measure it, then we have all the incentive in the world to build up and promote that viewing," Poltrack said. Having Nielsen numbers will also potentially increase the value of advertising on mobile and tablet devices.
CBS invested in Syncbak in April, though it has been working with the technology company for a couple of years. Syncbak is seen as the broadcasters attempt to do battle with Aereo, a start-up that streams broadcast signals to consumers via the Internet. CBS and other big broadcasters have been waging a legal battle with Aereo and contend the start-up violates their copyright.
Syncbak's technology is being tested by more than 100 television stations in 70 markets across 31 broadcast groups representing all major networks.