Changes in Cable TV, Streaming Services and Nielsen Ratings

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Bruce Springsteen once sang “57 channels and nothing on.” At one time, this was a frustration for most cable TV viewers. Today, however, there are more avenues to enjoy one’s favorite TV shows and movies. Online streaming, mobile devices and DVD stations like Redbox have given viewers a multitude of ways to access their favorite flicks.

With all these choices, it has become much more difficult to track and rate these shows through traditional rating systems like Nielsen. So, what is the future for cable TV, streaming services and smartphone apps?

Cable TV’s Pickle

Cable TV viewing has dropped as much as 7 percent year after year among adults ages 18 to 49, according to Tech Cheat Sheet. The culprit most assuredly is the more affordable and easily accessible online streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon. AudienceSCAN reports that 63 percent of consumers use streaming services as their sources of entertainment. With hit shows like “Orange is the New Black” and “House of Cards” and the fact that regular TV series and movies are available through movie devices, cable TV isn’t as necessary as it once was.

These changes in viewers’ habits and preferences are forcing cable TV to change as well. In order to make up for lost revenue, these networks sell old shows to online services like Netflix and Hulu. They try to save the newest shows for TV viewing only; however, as it turns out, more and more viewers are watching what these streaming services have to offer, old shows and all. Cable TV is in a pickle, however, if they decide not to provide these old shows to online services because there could be backlash from viewers and antitrust threats.

Nielsen Ratings Changes

These changes in cable TV also have forced Nielsen to figure out how to gather and analyze viewing data. In December, Nielsen will measure TV viewership through subscription online video services for the first time. It will analyze the audio components of programs, which will show what programs are being streamed. However, subscription video streaming on mobile devices has yet to be figured out.

Nielsen is gathering this information to help content owners see if licensing their content to streaming platforms is beneficial or not. The data aims to show if selling their content will only be helpful for short-term revenue or if it is pulling viewers permanently away from traditional, ad-supported TV, explains Tech Cheat Sheet. It also will help traditional networks and streaming services have data to support licensing negotiations and fees.

The Impact of Mobile

The complexities of ratings for Nielsen are proving to be cumbersome because technological devices have so many different functions. A television is not only used for watching TV but also as a computer screen and security surveillance system. A watch not only tells time but is a computer, phone and workout data center. Mobile phones are devices for work, school, communication and entertainment. Smartphones even can be used as remote controls for your television.

A new app, called WatchOn, gives you the power to remotely control your TV, DVR and other devices through your Samsung phone. It also recommends shows and movies based on your past viewing behavior. WatchOn’s newest features include social media interaction capabilities through Twitter. As you enjoy your show, you also can read relevant, trending tweets related to the show.

Where Nielsen is concerned, this is yet another avenue for viewers to access live TV shows, old TV shows and on-demand movies. Although Nielsen is testing a new rating system for streaming services, it will have to quickly determine a way to track and rate mobile viewership and apps. Overall, this data will provide the big picture for what shows are popular, making money and worth continuing or selling.