Television Consumption, Out of Home

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Television Consumption, Out of Home

Unfortunately, due to the newness of official tracking, the COVID pandemic impacting public and office viewing, and the nature of certain events creating a larger audience, there are no hard facts or data that provide a holistic view of the impact of out-of-home television viewing. As such, the following research provides the publicly available data surrounding current tracking of OOH viewership including information collected from media reporting, industry experts, and Nielsen Global Media.


  • According to AdAge in 2008, monitoring so-called out-of-home (OOH) viewing has become more crucial to media outlets, particularly as they come under pressure to provide more direct correlation to advertisers that the ads running alongside their colorful programs prompt purchasing behavior and brand recall.
  • As such, in 2008, Nielsen introduced a pilot program to be the precursor for its current national OOH television ratings service.
  • This initial program was offered as a “service (which) would be available to clients as a stand-alone offering, and it intends to deliver local out-of-home measurement in Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami and New York. For its national sample, the company is using 3,000 participants from the panel for its local service plus an additional 1,700 national panelists to provide a greater representation of the rest of the U.S.”
  • During the pilot, Nielsen tracked this data via mobile phones, stating that it “provides panel members with a mobile phone, asking them to carry it with them wherever they go. The phone is equipped with a technology that creates digital signatures of all the audio media -- TV, radio and movies -- to which it is exposed.”
  • Initially, only two of the ratings service’s clients were a part of the program , Walt Disney's ESPN and Publicis Groupe's Zenith Media.
  • “Canadian measuring agency BBM (now Numeris) started tracking out-of-home viewing and listening in late 2009 thanks to a switch to portable people meters (the same audio-detecting technology being used for U.S. OOH measurement). And that boosted sports ratings more than anything else, with some estimates figuring there was about a 20 percent gain across the board.”


  • In 2014, six years after the initiation of the pilot program, Nielsen announced that it had "quantified a lift in so-called ‘out of home’ viewing for the first time."
  • This methodology was developed after a three-month test in the Chicago market.
  • The test resulted in, according to Nielsen, that “out-of-home viewing added a ratings lift of between 7% and 9% for audiences between the ages of 25 to 54 — the demographic most coveted by sponsors of news programming.
  • At the time, it was suspected that news outlets were likely to be one of the primary stakeholders in using this data because they “derive a major part of their audience from people working in trading desks and the officers of financial-services firms.”
  • Sports and lifestyle programming would be another key stakeholder in the evaluation of this metric due to “people watching TV at the gym or a bar.”
  • This second assumption is bolstered by Nielsen’s data which states, during the test period in Chicago, “sports ratings increased 14% after including out-of-home viewing.”
  • In 2017, ESPN announced the incorporation of OOH viewership in their live-streaming data to advertisers.
  • At the time of the announcement, ESPN stated “live-streaming and out-of-home viewing facilitated through cable and satellite providers goosed its overall first-quarter (2017) audience by 12%, and its viewers between 18 and 34 by 18%.”
  • After that announcement however, ESPN released data which indicated more than 50% (of their advertisers) have agreed to utilize viewing from “out of home” sources” yet at the same time announced they would no longer separate the viewership metrics when announcing ratings.
  • Rather than presenting the data individually, ESPN planned to release a “live ‘total audience’ number that reflects both traditional TV watching as well as viewing via streaming services.” This allowed both ESPN and Nielsen to “add to that number over the next few weeks, adding in viewing done on mobile screens as well as viewing done via “out of home” sources, like TVs in bars and hotels.”
  • Impacts of combining streaming, mobile, and OOH viewership was estimated (by ESPN) to “add as much as 5% to 7% in younger audiences.”


  • According to published reports, “Nielsen defines out-of-home viewing as watching in bars, gyms, airports or an office. Most of the out-of-home viewing comes from the 35-54 and 55+ age groups. Both demographics are split at 32% with the 18-34 demographic next at 26%. But if you combine the 18-34 and 35-54 groups at close to 60%, those are the demographics which advertisers crave.”
  • The 2017 data indicates that “live sports saw a 9% increase in ratings when out-of-home viewing was included to its already existing numbers.”
  • Specific examples of increase in viewership were highlighted in the report. “ESPN alone saw a 6.2% total day lift in 2016 and Fox cited a 40% boost (13.6 million viewers) for a 2016 Cowboys-Redskins Thanksgiving game.”


  • In 2019, Nielsen announced that “TV viewership ratings will count viewers at bars, airports and other out-of-home venues beginning in fall 2020.”
  • Nielsen execs predicted that the service would provide an approximate 11% boost in ratings for sports programming and about 7% for news programming.
  • In July 2020, Nielsen announced it would delay the release of the OOH piece of its portfolio of services, citing the COVID-19 pandemic as one of the reasons for the altered timeline.
  • In a statement on the delayed release, Nielsen executives stated, Throughout this crisis, out-of-home audiences have been particularly hard hit, with estimates falling by as much as 60%. This is driven by broad stay-at-home orders, significant reduction in travel, closures of restaurants and public gathering establishments, and other situations that have reduced exposure to television content outside of the home. The recent surge in COVID-19 cases is expected to create further volatility in this space, making it challenging for the industry to plan around this audience segment. In consideration of the impact the pandemic has had on out-of-home audiences, Nielsen has decided to postpone the integration of PPM measured out-of-home viewing into the National TV currency. Nielsen will continue to offer its existing standalone out-of-home reporting service to subscribing clients, many of whom have used the service to transact on out-of-home audiences since 2017. In recent days, several states have started to pause their reopening and local governments are considering the reimplementation of stay-at-home orders. With future uncertainty around how the pandemic will further impact out-of-home viewing, Fall 2020 is not the ideal time to integrate this measurement into currency. While a new implementation date has not been determined, Nielsen is prepared to complete the integration when appropriate and will reassess the situation in Q1 2021."
  • Shortly after the release of the statement, Nielsen reversed its decision“after facing harsh criticism from such prominent clients as Disney and ViacomCBS, who were counting on OOH viewing as an additional revenue source.”
  • Data found on the OOH program page within the Nielsen site states, “Gen Z & Millennials have two times higher out-of-home lift than their parents or grandparents.”
  • Additionally, a video within the product page indicates that their data accounted that in 2017, OOH viewing lifted total viewership numbers by 13.6% for the James Comey hearings, 15.7% for the presidential inauguration, and 21% for the OJ Simpson parole hearing.



  • According to AwfulAnnouncing, “the most common and most logical ratings comparison is to the same event or events the previous year; that’s what produces headlines about rating X being up and rating Y being down. But if fall 2019 sports overnights contain OOH viewing, most of them will be up relative to 2018, which doesn’t necessarily say much about the specific event in question.”
  • Additionally, there are questions surrounding the methodology of Nielsen’s tracking. For example, “watching television in another home, which accounts for a substantial amount of OOH TV ratings, as reported by Nielsen. Since Nielsen allows for guest viewing in its national TV sample, they were concerned that respondents would be double counted as a guest viewer and with the PPM, thus inflating the ratings. Nielsen made the decision to exclude guest viewing from the sample. As a result, with some programs, the addition of OOH viewing actually resulted in lower ratings, which made no sense. Nielsen’s solution was to use the higher of the two ratings.”
  • Further, the tracking device (PPM), “only measures major radio metros, not the entire country. Therefore, only 44 of the 210 local TV markets would provide any out-of-home viewing. Any OOH viewing in smaller TV markets is unavailable.”
  • “For the PPM to pick up OOH TV viewing requires the volume to be loud enough and have minimum ambient audio. Both can be difficult in bars and restaurants.”

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