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Is an Online Viewer Worth as Much as TV Viewer? Nielsen Says Yes!

For years, TV networks have been selling commercial time based on the estimated number of people who watch a show on TV. Want to advertise on a popular show with a successful track record? It’s going to cost you. And since there are a limited number of spots on any single TV show airing, you may have to fight and give up other concessions in order to secure your space.

After the show airs on TV, in many cases, it moves to the internet. Only in this case, advertisers aren’t banging down the doors, offering up big bucks to run their ads on the show. Why? Mostly because of the notion that only viewers aren’t as valuable as TV viewers. And though that may have been true a few years ago, it’s not true anymore.

The CW is the first network to test this theory and they’re doing it with the help of Nielsen’s Cross-Platform Campaign Ratings tool. The system bridges the gap between the way we measure a TV audience and the way we measure an online audience. If it works, it will deliver a single number that represents the total number of people who saw an ad during a TV show, no matter where they saw it.

This makes sense for a lot of reasons. The biggest reason? People aren’t watching streaming shows on their computers anymore. According to a new study by the NPD Group, PC viewers are on the decline. They dropped from 48% to 31% and in the same time period, people who stream video on the TV rose from 33% to 45%.

When you add in tablets, smartphones, Blu-ray players and gaming consoles accessing primetime shows on demand, on Netflix and Hulu and on apps and websites — it’s clear that the old way of measuring TV success isn’t relevant anymore.

The CW recently renewed their ballet reality series Breaking Pointe, not because it did well in the ratings (it flopped), but because it was a big hit online. Not surprising, seeing as how the network is aimed at a young demographic, many of whom don’t have a TV, let alone cable.

The bottom line is that it’s not about reaching the most people, it’s about reaching the right people. For some brands, appealing to the young demographic online is going to result in better conversions than running an expensive ad on a popular TV series during primetime.

Oh the times, they are a changing. . .