TV By the Numbers: Measuring My Viewing Habits Online

Mourning News

Mourning News

As television networks kick off the upfronts introducing new programs and picking up where existing series left off, there is increasing conversation about using social media to connect fans and viewers with their favorite shows, as well as how many may be cutting-the-cord altogether. Full disclosure: I’m an employee at Nielsen, which has a great perspective of cross-platform insights into what consumers watch, but the ideas shared in this post are my own and are not necessarily shared by my employer.

First, here’s a funny and surprisingly accurate primer on how TV viewing is measured in the US (from Jess3 and ESPN):


Appointment Viewing

For the last two years I’ve been using social media tools like Get Glue, Miso, and IntoNow to track my viewing and to share my favorite TV shows with friends. These social networks use websites and smartphone apps to encourage more social viewing, opening up the sometimes isolated TV watching experience by connecting viewers who check-in to the same program and generating conversations among fans of the shows. For example, here are some of the shows I’ve checked-in to most recently:

View Matthew Hurst’s check-ins on GetGlue

By putting these social media tools into viewers’ hands to interact while watching, more consumers are using their smartphones and tablets simultaneously while watching TV. And there have been many case studies showing that social media discussion drives more people to tune-in to TV shows, and even some corrolation between the increase in online buzz corresponding increases in TV ratings. Of course, not all viewers want to use social media while watching TV, so while GetGlue and others may not be a repleacement for the TV ratings it does make an interesting way to measure about your own viewing behavior.


Another major change in the way I watch television is that I no longer subscribe to pay-TV, and have become a so called Cord-Cutter. When I moved to NYC I decided to forgo Cable or Satellite and replace most of my viewing with online video sites like Netflix and Hulu which offer many of the same TV programs. Since then I’ve added faster internet service for more HD video, a networked Blu-ray player to stream content, and a new big screen TV to showcase all my favorite shows. Increasingly I’m not alone in my choice to cut the cord, although the vast majority of Americans get their TV through cable and I even pay my old cable provider for broadband internet access.

Diggnation at home

For me cord-cutting is a viable option not only because it’s less costly, but because it allows me to watch TV on my own schedule. For years time-shifted viewing has been a growing trend, first with the emergence of DVR and On-Demand viewing and now with an increasing variety of viewing sources. From screens small (like my smartphone and tablets) and larger (like my new TV) not only can Americans view television more sources than ever before, but also whenever we want and with more choices of what to watch!