Netflix hides their viewing numbers, but Nielsen uses audio recognition software for a clue

John Koblin, New York Times:

In the five years since Netflix started streaming original series like the Emmy-winning “House of Cards” and “Master of None,” the shows have had a question hanging over them: How many people are watching?

Outside of Netflix, nobody knows the answer.

But Nielsen (the people who, for decades, have been crunching data to tell us who is watching what) has worked out a scheme to tell us:

Nielsen announced the initiative on Wednesday morning, but it has been collecting Netflix viewership data over the last two months in a kind of test run.

The company said it was able to determine how many viewers were streaming Netflix content through audio recognition software in the 44,000 Nielsen-rated homes across the United States.

Yes. Audio recognition software. They are eavesdropping on Nielsen households, obviously with permission, and parsing exactly who is watching Netflix, and exactly when and for how long.

This is fascinating to me, but it also made me wonder about Amazon and Google. With the Amazon Echo and Google Home in more and more homes, this kind of data would be easy enough to gather. With permission, of course.