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AOL releases 16 original shows, Nielsen to do the ratings

The gap between TV and digital video programming is narrowing, as AOL becomes the first Web client to receive Nielsen's audience measurement ratings for its original series.

AOL's new original series feature a slew of top celebrities. AOL

Here's a sign that Web-only shows are now going neck and neck with television: Nielsen, the well-known ratings-data analyst, will begin rating new AOL original series. AOL is the first digital client to get Nielsen's ratings for its original shows.

AOL announced Tuesday that it's coming out with a slew of new shows -- 16 to be exact -- which feature actors and producers including James Franco, Steve Buscemi, Sarah Jessica Parker, Zoe Saldana, Ellen DeGeneres, and more.

A few of the series were announced earlier this month, such as the long-form series "Connected." The rest of the shows are newly announced. This isn't AOL's first foray into Web-based original content -- in April 2013, the company unleashed 15 different series.

In the new relationship with Nielsen, AOL's 16 series will be measured with digital ratings in a beta test. The ratings will take an audience measurement of the shows and then deliver "gross ratings points" to show what type of people are watching the programs. Additionally, Nielsen will measure associated advertising shown with AOL's shows.

"Premium content is premium content, regardless of screen, delivery, length, or format, and our relationship with Nielsen signifies that understanding," Ran Harnevo, president of AOL Video, said in a statement. "As TV and digital continue to merge into one ecosystem, we believe in one standard form of measurement, and we're proud to be the first digital client to work with Nielsen to make this vision a reality."

AOL's relationship with Nielsen fits in with AOL's goal to be the Web's most welcoming place for video. Earlier this month, the company reformatted its Web site to highlight video from its own properties and from partners including ESPN, The Wall Street Journal, and Vogue. The push shows that AOL is focused not only on placing video front and center but also on becoming a video-ad powerhouse.

As far as original content goes, other Web-based companies have also started producing their own series, such as Yahoo and various video-streaming companies including Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon. Glam Media announced on Tuesday that it's rebranding itself as "Mode Media" and diving deeper into the original-video business.

AOL's 16 original shows will premiere throughout the year on its AOL On Network.