Nielsen to include Internet viewers in its definition of TV homes

Dish antennas outside California apartment complex
Nielsen is expanding its definition of what constitutes a TV home. In this 2011 file photo, three Dish Network satellite dishes are shown at an apartment complex in Palo Alto.
(Paul Sakuma / Associated Press)

Nielsen has expanded its definition of what constitutes a television home to include hundreds of thousands of dwellings that have broadband Internet connections.

Beginning later this year, the ratings giant will begin including people who consume video over the Internet in its sample audience.

Homes will qualify as part of the TV universe if they have a broadband Internet connection and “at least one operable TV/monitor with the ability to deliver video,” Nielsen said Tuesday in a statement. 

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The change in definition, which acknowledges that more consumers are eschewing traditional cable and satellite subscriptions for the Internet, will increase the universe of TV homes in the United States by 1.2%. 

Beginning in September, when the new definition takes effect, there will be an estimated 115.6 million homes with televisions, according to Nielsen, which sets the currency for the television industry. Tuesday’s announcement highlighted what Nielsen calls its advance universe estimates.

About 294 million people over age 2 live in those homes. (Nielsen does not include children under 2 in its calculations.)

During the current television season, Nielsen has estimated the TV universe at 114.2 million homes. The company uses U.S. Census Bureau data and other sources, including the U.S. postal service and state governments, to arrive at its calculations.


“Though we see slight shifts reflecting trends in population changes, the advance universe estimates are largely stable and television viewing remains very strong,” Pat McDonough, Nielsen’s senior vice president for insights and analysis, said in a statement.

The company plans to release its final estimates late this summer, just before the official kick-off of the 2013-14 television season.


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