Nielsen is introducing streaming video ratings to provide visibility of viewership alongside traditional television ratings. It estimates that a quarter of total television viewing in the United States is now from online video. The company says that with a holistic view of total television time, media buyers can make more informed decisions about their advertising investments while media sellers can better assess competition and understand audience composition.

Nielsen estimates that among homes that can stream video, the share of viewing has increased from 18% to 25% in a year. The shift in viewing is even more acute for certain age and ethnic demographics.

Netflix alone now accounts for about 7% of total television time in homes that are capable of viewing online video.

A third of these homes access between three and four subscription video services per month, but nearly half of homes also use an advertising-supported online video service as well.

Nielsen Streaming Video Ratings will deliver insights into how much streaming behaviour is happening on the television screen, how the various streaming providers compare, what devices are being used to stream and how different audience groups stream.

“By 2024, it’s estimated that streaming platforms will have amassed 210 million subscribers, which represents a staggering number of consumers and a major shift in media habits,” said Kevin Rini, who is responsible for product management at Nielsen.

Those numbers relate to the United States and refer to the number of subscribing accounts. Netflix alone has around 74 million subscribers in the United States and Canada.

At launch, Nielsen Streaming Video Ratings will include viewing details from 10 top streaming platforms as well as seven categories of apps, including subscription-based, ad-supported, and those of multichannel video programming distributors.

Nielsen uses the same national panel for measuring linear television and streaming, ensuring that data is directly comparable.

Nielsen Streaming Video Ratings measures streaming through the Nielsen Streaming Meter, which captures online viewing on television screens through smart televisions, connected devices and video gaming consoles.

Nielsen also offers ratings for subscription video on demand services, which provide metrics comparable with television at both the season and episode level.

With the rapid growth of online video, there has been no generally accepted measure of viewing comparable to that used for television. While panel measurement has its limitations and critics, it provides a statistical account of viewing that can be used to understand overall viewing patterns across different demographic groups.