Nielsen to include out-of-home viewing soon

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NEW YORK — Television networks will be happy to know that ratings will go up for many of their programs next year, simply because the Nielsen company will count more people.

The company whose numbers provide the currency for the TV industry says its change will begin next September, when it begins accounting for people who watch outside of their homes. That news, first reported in Variety, means that people who watch in bars, airports or offices will be accounted for in the measurements used to set advertising rates.

That's been a long time coming for networks, which have been prodding Nielsen to find a way to pick up this extra viewership for years. CNBC stopped subscribing to Nielsen four years ago, feeling cheated because Nielsen didn't count people who watched business coverage in offices.

"We think it's important," said Scott Brown, a Nielsen executive, on Tuesday. "We know that this is real viewership that wasn't being counted or measured and our goal is to measure everyone that is watching."

Based on its tests, Nielsen predicts that its count of people watching sports events will go up an average of 11 percent. News shows are averaging a 7 percent increase. For networks that traffic in that programming, that's real money — numbers that can be incorporated in what they charge for commercial time.

For example, Nielsen reported in February that 100.7 million people watched the Super Bowl. But with out-of-home viewership is counted, that added 12 million people.

Nielsen has spent years tinkering with the technology to achieve this, where viewership is counted through a portable device that picks up embedded audio signals. Typically, in-home viewership is counted through a device attached to television sets.

As the system has been tested for the past two years, Nielsen has been selling the out-of-home measurements to specific clients as an extra service.

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