In Depth

Turner, Nielsen Team to Track Out-of-Home Baseball Viewership

As the song “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” suggests, not everyone who’s watching baseball on television is doing it in his living room.

Turner Broadcasting, which televised baseball’s American League Championship Series last month, commissioned new research to find out how many people are watching games out-of-home.

Willy Aybar

HOME RUN Turner Broadcasting scored big numbers when Willy Aybar and the Tampa Bay Rays faced the Red Sox in the 2008 American League Championship Series.

The research, conducted by Nielsen with IMMI, found that tallying out-of-home viewing added 262,000 viewers in the adult 18 to 49 demographic, or 7%, to the audience of its six prime-time ALCS games. It got a 7% bounce among viewers 18 to 34, and 6% more viewers in the 25-to-54 age bracket.

Those viewers could be watching in offices, bars, fitness clubs or hotels, all places not normally measured when Nielsen compiles its ratings.

Networks have always known there is some viewership outside the home, particularly for sporting events.

“Measuring that extra viewing is important because it helps more accurately gauge the popularity of sports programming,” said Jack Wakshlag, chief research officer at Turner. And, he added, “Sooner or later we’d like to get credit for all of the viewing that happens. Advertisers are not only interested in media exposures that happen in someone’s home.”

The information is valuable to Major League Baseball as well, because it shows that while the sport is thought to appeal to an older audience, a big chunk of younger viewers are watching—but not at home.

Turner found another 126,000 18- to 24 year-old viewers in the out-of-home audience, which raised total viewership by 13%.

“There are people watching who are young who are now able to be captured, when beforehand we assumed they weren’t watching,” Mr. Wakshlag said.

Exactly where those younger viewers were watching wasn’t reported by Nielsen and IMMI. Only half of them could be in bars legally. Mr. Wakshlag guessed they could be in restaurants or at parties where the game is on.

IMMI gives its sample viewers a special cell phone to carry that picks up the sound of television broadcasts. It matches the soundtrack’s digital signature to determine what the viewer is watching. An in-home beacon lets the device know when the viewer is not at home.

Because it uses sound, if a viewer is watching a game in a bar where the television is turned down and the jukebox is playing, the system wouldn’t count that toward the audience.

But Mr. Wakshlag said the system produces more precise numbers than the industry has had before.

“This is all about capturing as much TV viewing as possible, whenever and wherever it takes place,” he said.

“This is important,” he added. “We’re trying to innovate with new and different ways to measure media, and in this case we’re experimenting with a company that can give us cross-platform media measurement.”

Mr. Wakshlag said Turner might use the service again for other sporting events.

“It’s not cheap,” he said. “We wanted to try something new and different to see how the market would respond to this kind of information so next time around we can see how we can leverage this kind of information to our benefit.”