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Nielsen to measure iPad viewing for cable TV

In a project still in the “R&D stage,” Nielsen has begun to measure cable television subscriber viewing habits on Apple’s iPad tablet for Time Warner Cable and Cablevision.

Two undisclosed media companies are working with Nielsen to measure iPad viewership.

“We’re taking the project dead seriously because our clients need to know what the viewing is on tablet and smart phone platforms,” said Matt O’Grady, Nielsen’s executive vice president of media audience measurement.

Since March 15, Time Warner Cable’s iPad app has been downloaded more than 600,000 times, the company said. As of last week, Cablevision said its Optimum App for iPad exceeded 200,000 downloads since its debut in early April.

Nielsen is using a small piece of code on the iPad in conjunction with server-side software to measure viewing. O’Grady said a second step is to launch a “friends and family” measurement test of the iPad apps with Nielsen employees.

Viacom, claiming violated distribution agreements, has pursued legal action for iPad distribution against both TWC and Cablevision with lawsuits asserting breach of contract and copyright infringement. Viacom and other program distributors have argued that providing live television on iPads or any other IP-connected devices inside the home is an extension of existing carriage deals.

Viacom and others complained as part of their argument against the cable operators that Nielsen currently is unable to account for viewing on devices such as the iPad.

“Nielsen does not track iPad viewership of entertainment programming,” Viacom said in the lawsuit filed on April 7 against TWC. “This is of tremendous significance because Viacom relies on Nielsen ratings to sell advertising time on its networks, and the greater the audience size, the greater the market value of the advertising time.”

Last week, Cablevision and Viacom settled the programmer’s lawsuit for undisclosed terms. Viacom is in negotiations for a settlement with Time Warner Cable.