Facebook, Nielsen team up to track TV viewing trends

By Robert Lawson, Tech Times | July 15, 1:56 PM

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Facebook, Nielsen team up to track TV watching trends

Facebook has teamed up with Nielson to study television watching behavior. It is part of an effort to understand how users watch TV on mobile devices.
(Photo : Hana Kirana, Flickr/WikiMedia Commons)

Facebook and Nielsen have teamed up to understand the habits of users watching television shows on their mobile devices. The initiative will begin this fall.

The television ratings company, Nielsen, wants to know more about demographic data for mobile viewing habits including gender and age. They are enlisting help from Facebook to retreive such data.

According to reports, the study will begin in the fall 2014 television season, when many popular shows debut.

The news comes on the heel of other controversial news surrounding Facebook. The social network is being criticized in the United Kingdom for their part in a mood study. The study involved influencing Facebook users' moods. Nielson has no involvement with that controversey.

The actual announcement about a strategic alliance between the two companies actually came in 2009 and the plans for mobile viewing measurement were announced October 2013.

The mood study has brought the microscope to Facebook after it garnered so much attention and criticism. Nielson says that Facebook doesn't collect information, but just delivers data about gender and age as a third party.

"Nielsen takes nothing more seriously than consumer privacy and we have a well-established reputation for protecting privacy spanning several decades," a Nielson spokesperson said. "Consumer privacy is a top priority for us and we work with leading privacy advocates to ensure our products meet or exceed industry privacy standards."

Nielsen developed a software developer kit (SDK) that content providers integrate into their online video players or within their branded apps. The SDK is a software meter that can identify the content/ad being viewed. If the content is TV-originated and has the Nielsen audio watermark already embedded (already used in TV measurement) the SDK converts it to a tag that contains the program information. If it doesn't have the watermark, the SDK looks for other meta data embeded in the video. Nielsen encrypts the information with random codes that correspond to the program.

Nielsen TV ratings are based on our national sample of 25,000 U.S. homes (not people), that's fully representative of the U.S. population. Participants are chosen via random sampling and agree to let Nielsen install meters on their television sets to capture their television viewing. 

Nielsen started tracking online viewing habits in 2011. Many television networks have moved to providing more online content for the explosion of mobile device users who want to stream content on their smartphones, tablets and desktop and notebook computers. Home streaming devices like Roku and Apple TV have also become popular with ever connected consumers.

Advertisers use the Nielsen data to make decisions about what messages to send to consumers. Nielsen Executive VPCheryl Idell told reporters the company needs to evolve its own business model to learn more about this new fragmented viewing scenario that has taken root.

Reports indicate, however, that privacy advocates have their eyes peeled. Critics argue that Facebook shouldn't need to know or share a user's non-Facebook activity the way they currently do.

One report points to data concluded from another study providing insight into changing viewer habits. In the past four-and-a-half years, the number of adult tablet owners has increased to 42 percent, compared to almost zero in 2010.

Nielsen will also gather data from Experian Marketing Services. The companies have said that the data that they are collecting will be kept anonymous and that private identities of those users whose data is collected will not be revealed to anyone.

Digital online video advertising is growing exponentially. According to a source, the industry is expected to expand by 40 percent this year to $6 billion. The partnership between these two companies reportedly began in 2010.

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