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Nielsen Offers Netflix Ratings, But How Accurate Are They?
Paying customers will finally gain some insight into Netflix viewing numbers, but Nielsen's measurement is limited to video streamed to a TV set.

At long last, the industry will have some idea how many people watch Netflix—at least, if they pay for the information. Measurement specialist Nielsen announced that it now offers Netflix ratings to customers. While Netflix doesn't run commercials, this could help content owners understand how often their licensed shows and movies are viewed on the service.

To get its ratings, Nielsen is relying on auto recognition software installed in 44,000 U.S. homes. Licensed titles have a digital tag inserted into them that allows Nielsen to determine where the video originated. Nielsen first tried this approach in October 2015, when it gave a first look at its Total Audience Measurement tool. At the time, it relied on audio files provided by clients to create an audio fingerprint of select shows. It no longer needs clients to provide those files, and is able to monitor a broader range of content.

The Netflix ratings will provide the same information Nielsen offers for TV shows, including audience per minute, but reporting the data will take a week. Customers signed up so far include Disney ABC Television Group, A&E Networks, Lionsgate, NBCUniversal, and Warner Bros. Nielsen plans to expand its measurements to other subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) services, such as Amazon Prime and Hulu, in 2018.

While the industry will no doubt welcome transparency about Netflix performance, questions about accuracy have already cropped up. Nielsen's service will only monitor TV streaming, and many Netflix subscribers use computers or mobile devices. Also, the numbers will only reflect viewing in the U.S., at a time when Netflix is quickly expanding overseas.

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