According to the Nielsen company’s tally, 7.8 million people watched Amazon Prime’s coverage of last Thursday’s NFL game between New Orleans and Arizona. But Amazon says no, there were actually 8.9 million people watching.
So which one is it?
You have to judge for yourself. After each of its Thursday Night games this season, Amazon has publicly contradicted Nielsen in this way, one of the boldest challenges ever to a company that for generations has monopolized the number of people watching programs at home.
Neither company is saying the other is wrong, but neither is backing down either. The result is confusion, especially for advertisers.
Nielsen, as it has done for years, tracks the viewing habits of a panel of homes across the country and derives from that limited sample an estimate of how many people watch a particular program. This number is common in the media industry, meaning it is used to determine advertising rates.
Amazon, in the first year of an 11-year contract to stream Thursday Night Games, says it has an actual number of each of its subscribers streaming it — not an estimate. The games are also broadcast in the participating teams’ local markets, about 9% of its total viewership each week, and Amazon uses Nielsen’s estimate for that portion of the total.
“We wouldn’t release our number unless we were sure it was accurate,” said Jay Marine, vice president of Amazon Prime Video and head of its sports division.
Over six weeks, Nielsen says, Thursday night games averaged 10.3 million viewers. Amazon says the average is 12.1 million. Amazon’s estimate has been greater than Nielsen’s every week.
“I don’t believe Amazon’s numbers are wrong at all,” said Connie Kim, a Nielsen spokeswoman. “And I don’t believe our numbers are wrong.”
Given that different methods are used, it is not surprising that there are differences in the estimate, she said.
“It’s going to take some time,” Kim said. “The way it’s developing, it should be in the single digits. But we’re not there yet. »
So far, advertising prices for Thursday games have been set using Nielsen figures. But Amazon has a clear incentive to let customers know they think more people are actually watching.
“You have to remember that this is new — new to Nielsen and it’s the first time there’s been actual data for an event like this,” Marine said.
The dispute has clear consequences for the future. Streamers had little incentive to release daily viewing data, in part because people don’t watch their shows the same way broadcast TV does, and they didn’t need verified numbers from a third-party source for advertisers.
But with Netflix introducing advertising, all of this could change very quickly. And if other companies develop technology that can measure viewing more precisely, the precedent is now set to publicly challenge Nielsen’s figures.
—David Bauder, Associated Press
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