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Nielsen to start rating TV's big waves on smallest screens

The company, whose ratings are the benchmark for what shows are most worthy of valuable marketing dollars, next week will outline its plans to start counting views on tablets and smartphones in 2014.

Joan E. Solsman Former Senior Reporter
Joan E. Solsman was CNET's senior media reporter, covering the intersection of entertainment and technology. She's reported from locations spanning from Disneyland to Serbian refugee camps, and she previously wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal. She bikes to get almost everywhere and has been doored only once.
Expertise Streaming video, film, television and music; virtual, augmented and mixed reality; deep fakes and synthetic media; content moderation and misinformation online Credentials
  • Three Folio Eddie award wins: 2018 science & technology writing (Cartoon bunnies are hacking your brain), 2021 analysis (Deepfakes' election threat isn't what you'd think) and 2022 culture article (Apple's CODA Takes You Into an Inner World of Sign)
Joan E. Solsman
An episode of "Game of Thrones" on an iPhone with the HBO GO app. Screenshot by Joan E. Solsman/CNET

Bill Nye would be happy to know you used your tablet to watch his cha-cha on "Dancing with the Stars," but advertisers don't care a lick.

That's because Nielsen, the company whose ratings are the standard for gauging how many and what kind of people are watching particular TV shows, has long struggled to count viewing that takes place off the television, even as video on mobile devices has proliferated.

Next week, Nielsen will detail its plans to integrate data about television viewing on tablets and smartphones into its ratings starting next year and will be rolling out its Twitter-related ratings in time for the fall TV season.

A Nielsen study earlier this year determined that (surprise!) the more popular a show is, the more people tend to tweet about it. More arresting, though, was the study's finding that a spike in the volume of tweets can increase how much people tune into shows.

But Nielsen's difficulties in counting people who are watching on tablets and phones has clogged how much of that programming is made available on devices. Without any promise that viewing on iPads or iPhones would count toward the all-important rankings that set advertising rates, networks have been reluctant to put their content live on Internet-connected devices.

[Via the Wall Street Journal and Variety].