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As homes and offices fill with more and more internet-connected devices, consumers are increasingly consuming content on multiple screens.

Content creators and distributors know this. Advertisers know this. Analysts know this. Entrepreneurs and startups know this.

But when it comes to the measurement of content consumption, key metrics lag behind our multi-screen world. This is particularly evident in the world of television, where billions of dollars are spent annually based on ratings metrics that haven't kept up with the times.

But that could be changing soon because Nielsen, one of the most important players in television ratings, is preparing to look beyond the small screen when it calculates viewership for television programming.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Nielsen's What Nielsen Measures Committee, which is made up of key stakeholders including representatives from TV networks and agencies, has decided that Nielsen's ratings should be expanded to count viewing that takes place through streaming services like Netflix and connected devices, such as the Xbox, Playstation and, eventually, iPads.

While The Hollywood Reporter's Alex Ben Block notes that the decision by the What Nielsen Measures Committee isn't binding, but if adopted, the company would aim to "have in place new hardware and software tools in the nearly 23,000 TV homes it samples."

Nielsen hasn't yet publicly commented on The Hollywood Reporter's report, but a move to expand ratings to multiple screens makes sense.

On the content side, television networks have good reason to be worried that traditional ratings are and will continue to get less and less accurate as audiences consumer their content through online services and connected devices. That, for obvious reasons, can have significant financial implications. For agencies and advertisers looking to hit the right audiences, identify the most appropriate media buys and make the most of the opportunities created by mutli-screen activity, ratings that don't paint a full picture of viewership will impede success.

Patricio Robles

Published 21 February, 2013 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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