Nielsen says online viewing doesn’t count as watching TV

Through a twist of some measurement statistics, Nielsen has increased the news audience viewership for two local television stations in the Northwest.

The measurement company says that viewers who watch local newscasts online are not actually watching TV. This means the station has an expanded audience—thus greater ratings—beyond the television medium for these newscasts.

Nielsen revealed this theory from a cross-platform measurement survey it recently conducted with stations owned by Fisher Communications in Seattle, Washington and Portland, Oregon.

“Nielsen uncovered that a local TV station’s online audience offers expanded, unduplicated reach. There are also demographic differences between online and broadcast audiences and local news websites have a dramatic impact on station ratings,” Nielsen said in the results.

Under Nielson’s findings, Seattle’s KOMO-TV earned an incremental reach of 2.9 percent from their website for viewers aged 18 and older. This amounts to 10 percent of the total combined reach for the station’s 11 p.m. late newscasts. The website contributes even more for persons 18-34, boasting a 3.9 percent incremental reach that accounts for 23 percent of the total combined reach.

For Portland’s KATU-TV, the station’s website,, added 2.8 percent to the 28.1 percent reach of the late news. For KATU, ages 25-54 saw the biggest lift thanks to with a 4.6 percent reach. The website contributed 14 percent of the combined newscast and website reach for persons 25-54.

Nielson said the viewing boosts come from homes with incomes of more than $100,000. The online audience, it said, tends to skew toward male viewers.

Nielsen said that sales of websites and TV airtime can be combined but sold also differently according to audience demographics and advertiser intention. “Usage of a station’s website may also show a notable impact on station ratings during all news-related dayparts,” Nielsen said. “As a result, increased on-air programming efforts to encourage use of the station’s website can be expected.”