Nielsen close to collecting out-of-home viewing data, sorta

Nielsen will expand its sampling of consumer video preference to out-of-home viewing starting in Q2 2017, taking its People Meters portable in nearly four dozen markets, the company said, beginning to get at least a peak at how modern viewers consume online content on the go.

The company will use its Portable People Meter to measure viewing from panelists wherever they go, and combine that with its National TV ratings panel for in-home viewing… eventually. In the near term, Nielsen said, it will be a stand-along service, but said it eventually will be expanded to more markets and integrated into national TV ratings.

Nielsen will offer both program and commercial ratings for live through Live+7 days. The new service will include data from 75,000 users in 44 markets and Nielsen said that will enable them to estimate out-of-home viewing for about half the U.S. population.

Broadcasters are still likely to be at odds with the measurement company, saying that Nielsen’s audience sample simply doesn’t give a true picture of their audience.

Findings from the new service initially will be shared with clients on a limited basis, and will include sampling back to January. Nielsen said additional data back to September 2016 should be added shortly after launch.

The launch will at least partially quell broadcaster ire over ratings they contend miss an integral part of their audience that watches TV at bars, in airports and in other public spaces, especially sports programming, which has taken a beating in the past couple of years with numbers for baseball, hockey and even the once-bullet-proof NFL falling off a cliff.

But, since the Portable People Meters only work when they capture audio, it’s still problematic that the service will reveal a true picture of viewer habits, especially since most TVs in public places — like sports bars and airports — are muted as several games often are on multiple screens.

Of course, as more content is delivered online to connected TVs, mobile devices and laptops, getting a true picture of what viewers are watching, on what devices and how engaged they are, will become easier.

Stay tuned.

Jim O’Neill is Editor of Videomind and Principal Analyst at Brightcove. You can follow him on Twitter @JimONeillMedia and on LinkedIn