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Nielsen Eyes iPad Ratings

Nielsen is testing a promising new system to measure viewing on iPads that will eventually allow the numbers to be incorporated into the combined multiplatform C3 ratings the research company currently supplies for linear TV, DVR, VOD and Web viewing.

The test, which has shown generally positive results, is important because both operators and programmers would like to capitalize on the growing popularity of tablets by offering more programming on iPads.

Until recently, attempts to measure viewing on Apple’s mobile devices has been hampered by the company’s closed operating system, which does not allow more than one application to run at the same time.

Nielsen is not discussing how it has managed to overcome that problem because the technology is still in development. But the early results of a field test in an undisclosed market seem promising. The solution is reading the watermarks in the programming, which allows viewing to be measured. Nielsen is in the process of applying for a patent, says Matt O’Grady, Nielsen executive VP, media product leadership.

O’Grady stresses, however, that overcoming the technical hurdles is only step one in the process of creating accurate ratings. Setting up the actual panel so that it reflects true usage of these devices “and getting the accrediting and the acceptance from the MRC [Media Ratings Council] and our clients is a bigger task than the actual technology,” he says. The iPad effort is the first step in a broader effort by Nielsen to begin measuring more devices.

O’Grady declines to provide a speci! c timeline for completion of the iPad project, but the process could easily take a year given the complexities of developing a reliable panel for a new, rapidly growing technology.

The most recent Nielsen figures suggest that tablets are in more than 6% of all homes and that 5% of all homes have an iPad. But research companies have provided widely varying projections of how quickly tablet sales will grow and the impact of lower-cost Android tablets on Apple’s market share.

Nielsen settled on first targeting iPads because tablets are an ideal platform for viewing long-form video, and because Apple currently dominates the market.

But O’Grady stresses that they are closely monitoring market trends for other devices, including Android tablets, gaming consoles and smartphones, and will look to develop ratings solutions for them as their use for TV viewing becomes more widespread. “We are watching the other devices as they evolve,” O’Grady says.

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