Q&A: Nielsen’s Sara Erichson on the Connected Count

NEW YORK—Around 21.4 million U.S. households have a streaming device connected to at least one TV set.* That’s about 18 percent of all U.S. TV households, according to Nielsen’s total. It’s a pretty big chunk, and people are using those devices to watch TV content. Around 46 percent of Americans now subscribe to a TV content streaming service, and 70 percent of them now “binge” watch an average of five episodes at a sitting, according to Deloitte.

Nielsen has now added this universe to its viewing metrics, not merely in terms of total number of people, but what device they’re using to stream content. Nielsen is now breaking out what type of peripheral—e.g., Roku Xbox, Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast, PlayStation, Nintendo and Wii boxes—growth trends for usage of those peripherals, and what type of content people watch on them, and for how long. (See “Nielsen to Provide TV Connected Device Data by Brand.” March 23, 2016.)

The granular metrics reach beyond ratings, providing clients with the type of data they can use for targeted advertising and even dynamic, responsive programming. The data also reaches into the TV distribution plant, where proliferating TV streaming services are part of what’s driving the move toward IP-based technologies that can react more nimbly to new media file format specifications. The deep data could help broadcasters anticipate and prioritize file-format demand.

TV Technology asked Sara Erichson, executive vice president of Client Solutions and Audience Insights for Nielsen, about Nielsen’s decision to provide this type of granular data to its clients.

TV Technology: Have clients been asking for this data?
ERICHSON: Yes, in order to make smart business decisions, clients need to understand the growth in ownership and usage of TV connected devices, and how these devices are being used to access television content. This new service provides far more granularity than what was previously available.

TV Technology: What type of impact is this expected to show on overall viewing of specific formats?
ERICHSON: The impact will be more around how clients leverage the data. The new insights will allow them to analyze the viewing behaviors and demographics of homes that have TV-connected devices.
While penetration of streaming devices – like Roku – in U.S. households are still relatively modest, homes that own streaming devices used them often, as much as they use their DVRs. The growing popularity of streaming devices as an alternative means to bring television content to the television screen has implications for both content owners and distributors.

TV Technology: How often will Nielsen be releasing this data?
ERICHSON: The data will be available to subscribing clients on a daily basis.

TV Technology: Are there any privacy issues with regard to knowing who owns a Roku box, for example?
ERICHSON: No. All of this data are based on information collected from Nielsen’s opt-in, highly representative panel of 40,000 U.S. television households. It’s the same panel that our national television ratings are based on.

* Derived from NPD’s Connected TV Report and Ooyala’s citation of Park Associates figures.