Amazon and Nielsen aren’t on the same page who’s watching Thursday Night regarding Football

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The customer is always right. Except when it isn’t.

In an effort to provide advertisers with apples-to-apples viewership data, Amazon hired Nielsen to do something it had never before done — turn streaming numbers into ratings measurements. Through six weeks, Amazon and Nielsen aren’t on the same page.

The source for this one isn’t some fringe website or inside-baseball boutique sport-media operation. It’s a story from the Associated Press.

Via David Bauder of the AP, Amazon and Nielsen have been contradicting each other on a weekly basis as to the actual viewership of the Thursday night, streaming-only games.

Consider this quote Connie Kim, Nielsen spokesperson: “I don’t at all believe that Amazon’s numbers are not right. And I don’t believe that our numbers are not right.”

Nielsen won’t say Amazon is wrong, because (in my opinion) Nielsen is getting paid to do this, by Amazon. Likewise, Amazon won’t say Nielsen is wrong, because (in my opinion) Amazon is hoping Nielsen eventually will come around to Amazon’s way of assessing the audience.

As we’ve said before, Amazon surely knows the number of streams that are activated and for how long. They know everything else about us. How can they not know when someone clicks “play” on TNF, and how long until they click away from it? We know at any given moment the real-time traffic at PFT, for a given day. And we lack the resources or the incentive that Amazon has to know everything.

Beyond the fact that audience size influences advertising revenues, Amazon can qualify for postseason games if it reaches certain viewership minimums. There’s a natural temptation, then, to find a way to legitimately fudge the numbers. Or not legitimately.

Amazon wants to pump up the numbers. Nielsen wants to convey accurate numbers. The unvarnished truth surely resides somewhere within Amazon corporate headquarters. There’s a chance that those numbers are even lower than what either company is reporting.

Currently, Nielsen’s season-to-date average viewership number is 10.3 million. Amazon’s number is 12.1 million. The simple reality is that the viewership number would be much higher if the games were still on Fox. And the basic challenge for the NFL and Amazon is to get more and more and more people who would otherwise be watching the game on Fox to watch it on Amazon.

One way to boost that effort, frankly, is to push the highest possible viewership numbers, in order to make people think they’re missing out on a shared experience that, per Nielsen’s calculations, 1.8 million fewer people per week are sharing than Amazon claims .

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