Good news chart heads, stat freaks, and people who merely are curious how the popularity of some shows compare to others: The AP reports that the Nielsen company has announced a new service that will gather and report viewership data on streaming shows. Until now, this information has not been made public—we who pay attention to pop culture and its attendant media only have a general idea when something like Stranger Things hits big because people talk about it and we start seeing its young actors so frequently we can chart their hair growth and development. Now we’ll have hard data to back our understanding of how much cultural space Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, et al., are indeed taking up.
“When people start analyzing this, they’re going to be quite surprised at the size of the audience these programs are commanding,” said Brian Fuhrer, Nielsen’s senior vice president of product leadership. An example given in the report is all eight episodes of Marvel’s The Defenders landed in the Top 20 of the 18-to-49-year-old demographic for the week after it was released on Netflix in August.
Nielsen has been collaborating with individual streaming platforms and tallying their data since 2014. That information has largely remained private. But now via technology described as an “audio signature that does not require any action by the programmers to activate it,” it can offer this data to all networks that choose to subscribe (ABC and NBC have reportedly already signed up). As the AP explains:
Clients like ABC and NBC will be able to know how many people are watching House of Cards, for example, and have no reason to keep that information private.
And through data, we have the opportunity to learn more about ourselves, our mouths agape and humanity’s unending capacity for lounging around, staring at things. The report states that Nielsen has observed that the day a show is released, its fans watch an average of four and a half episodes of it. That’s like a half a day of work, which is a lot especially if your job doesn’t involve watching television.
Anyway, this should be interesting. There is one slight catch, though. The AP says, “So far, Nielsen says it can only measure streaming viewership on television, and not on mobile devices.”