May 17, 3:06 PM EDT

The sports giant ESPN says it will become one of the first big television companies to incorporate measurements of people watching out of their homes into its ratings



NEW YORK (AP) -- ESPN says it has agreed with the Nielsen company to become one of the first television networks to regularly incorporate measurements of people watching TV outside of their homes in places like bars or health clubs into viewership estimates.

The technology is expected to become available next year. Networks have been pushing Nielsen for technology to keep up with the changing way people watch TV, and the company said it is working on the ability to regularly measure viewership across all screens in various places, not just TV at home.

This is particularly important to a company like ESPN, and chief executive John Skipper said Tuesday that the impact on the company's ratings will be dramatic - and will become part of the negotiations on prices it can command from advertisers.

Sports broadcasters have been particularly vocal in saying Nielsen's at-home measurements don't paint a realistic picture of their audiences.

"No one ever says, 'Let's go to the sports bar and watch a Ken Burns documentary,'" said ESPN personality Kenny Mayne at the network's annual presentation to advertisers.

Nielsen has moved closer to providing this information regularly through its 2013 purchase of Arbitron and its technology that allows people to carry portable measurement tools. The company has been testing the technology and is close to a point where these estimates can be fully incorporated into its ratings system, said Brian Fuhrer, the company's senior vice president for product leadership.

At ESPN's presentation, advertisers got another stark look at how the TV business is changing.

ESPN's "Sportscenter" anchor Scott Van Pelt was touting the network's ratings for its midnight edition of the program. Some of ESPN's competitors have suggested that television highlights shows like "Sportscenter" don't have a bright future because young people are increasingly turning to online sources to get such news.

"We believe that people have attention spans longer than 6 seconds," Van Pelt said.

He then invited New York Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard onstage for a conversation and asked the 23-year-old where he gets much of his sports information.

Syndergaard's answer? His phone.

Last week in television, CBS' "NCIS" led the way in ratings. CBS' tribute to retiring "60 Minutes" correspondent Morley Safer landed among the week's top 10 programs.

CBS easily won the week in prime-time, averaging 7.6 million viewers. NBC had 5.4 million viewers, ABC had 5.1 million, Fox had 2.8 million, Univision had 1.8 million, the CW had 1.5 million, Telemundo had 1.4 million and ION Television had 1.2 million.

TNT was the week's most popular cable network, averaging 2.32 million viewers in prime time. Fox News Channel had 1.98 million, ESPN had 1.66 million, TBS had 1.55 million and HGTV had 1.44 million.

NBC's "Nightly News" topped the evening newscasts with an average of 8 million viewers. ABC's "World News Tonight" was second with 7.8 million and the "CBS Evening News" had 6.8 million viewers.

For the week of May 9-15, the top 10 shows, their networks and viewerships: "NCIS," CBS, 16.04 million; "The Big Bang Theory," CBS, 14.73 million; "NCIS: New Orleans," CBS, 13.25 million; "Dancing With the Stars," ABC, 11.33 million; "60 Minutes," CBS, 10.89 million; "The Voice" (Monday), NBC, 9.8 million; "Empire," Fox, 9.81 million; "Survivor," CBS, 9.51 million; "60 Minutes Presents: Morley Safer," CBS, 9.46 million; "The Voice" (Tuesday), NBC, 9.05 million.

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Associated Press Writer Rachel Cohen contributed to this report.

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ABC is owned by The Walt Disney Co. CBS is owned by CBS Corp. CW is a joint venture of Warner Bros. Entertainment and CBS Corp. Fox is owned by 21st Century Fox. NBC and Telemundo are owned by Comcast Corp. ION Television is owned by ION Media Networks.

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Online:

http://www.nielsen.com

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