Nielsen Is Now Including Hulu and YouTube TV Live Viewing in Its TV Ratings

Showing viewership across multiple platforms

The company hopes analyzing streaming services provides a more accurate view of who's consuming content and how. Patrick McElhenney/Fox
Headshot of A.J. Katz

People aren’t watching TV like they used to, and Nielsen is working on ways to provide its clients, both advertisers and traditional TV networks, the most accurate view of who’s consuming content and how.

One way Nielsen believes it can accomplish this is by analyzing live TV viewing on streaming services.

As of today, Hulu’s live TV offering and YouTube TV are now included in Nielsen TV ratings through the company’s Digital in TV Ratings product. DTVR measures viewing on PC and mobile devices, and across apps that are owned and operated by the broadcast networks, cable nets and apps made available by wireless and cable companies.

No matter the device, if viewers watch cable or broadcast TV shows on Hulu’s live service (not SVOD) or YouTube TV within the three-day or seven-day window and sees the same commercial load that ran when the show first aired on linear, the network can count their viewing into its standard Nielsen TV rating.

“We have been working closely with both Hulu and YouTube TV to ensure that we could enable measurement at the time in which they launched,” Nielsen’s svp of product Kelly Abcarian told Adweek. “YouTube TV did an initial launch in just five markets, but now they are in 10 additional markets, which puts them up to 15 in total across their service. Hulu has really focused more on turning the live aspect on, as opposed to just being an on-demand watching capability across their existing footprint. I think at the end of the day, in order to be able to attain success in the launch of these services, having independent third-party measurement and being able to directly credit the audiences to the C3, C7 numbers was a critical component of launching these services to the marketplace.”

For $35 per month, YouTube TV was available to subscribers in only five cities when it launched in April. Last Thursday, the service announced it has expanded its live broadcast streams in 10 additional markets. Subscribers in 15 different markets can now livestream the broadcast networks and nearly 50 cable channels. Fourteen of the 15 markets include live local feeds from the major broadcasters—Fox, CBS, NBC and ABC.

“We built YouTube TV to bring the most popular must-watch TV to today’s video streaming audiences, and we’re already seeing that live TV represents the majority of time spent watching on the service,” said You Tube TV’s director of content partnerships Heather Moosnick. “Our network and advertising partners will benefit from Nielsen DTVR measurement of YouTube TV.”

Hulu, on the other hand, launched the beta version of its live television service in May, which, priced at $39.99 a month, offers live broadcasts across more than 50 different channels, along with the streaming juggernaut’s own network of originals, exclusives and on-demand reruns of popular shows. Its live offering is available across the country.

Like cable and satellite carriers, YouTube TV and Hulu have access to roughly two minutes of advertising per hour on cable networks. Hulu plans to roll out dynamic ad insertion for those two minutes later this year.

What type of audience lift can clients expect to earn from the new data? Nielsen claims it’s too early to tell.

“It’s still early days, and these skinny bundles have only started to emerge in the last six months,” Abcarian said. “DirecTV Now launched in the January time frame, and Sling TV was probably the earliest entrant with their skinny bundle. So it will take some time to understand that, but the most important step is being able to credit this into the ratings and allow our clients to monetize the lift that this brings to their C3 and C7 numbers.”

@ajkatztv A.J. Katz is the senior editor of Adweek's TVNewser.