The importance of measuring mobile viewing

Variety was among the first to report that Nielsen will announce plans next week to add viewing on mobile devices to its iconic National TV ratings. Described as “the culmination of more than three years worth of work,” the initiative will measure the viewing of live programming on tablets and smartphones beginning in September 2014.

Nielsen hopes to address the concerns of TV programmers who have long craved information regarding how their content is performing on mobile devices, which — obviously — would give them a more well-rounded view of overall viewing audiences. And that would enable them to better monetize those viewers through ads.

But as Variety notes, even if Nielsen’s effort its data won’t be anywhere near comprehensive. Nielsen’s programming partners will have to insert specific code into their apps that will track live TV and report results back to Nielsen, which will surely take time to implement and perfect. And as The New York Times points out, the service won’t include data from Hulu, which is jointly owned by ABC, Fox and NBC and delivers different ads than traditional TV programming.

Meanwhile, some individual TV content providers are developing in-house systems to measure cross-platform viewing, as ESPN is with its Project Blueprint. The TV industry clearly has a lot of work to do in gauging how its content is being viewed in mobile devices. Nielsen appears to be taking a step in the right direction, but it will be just one step.