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Nielsen to start sharing Hulu & Prime Video viewership later in 2019, could force concessions by Apple

Netflix's Bird Box.

Nielsen will reportedly begin sharing viewership data for Hulu and Amazon Prime Video later this year, which could put pressure on Apple to allow the same with its new video service.

Such data is important to both the media industry and advertisers, the former for discerning tastes and the latter for targeting the most popular shows or specific demographics. Netflix is ad-free and infamously secretive about viewer numbers, but even that company is starting to selectively share data, according to two NBC News sources.

Apple is poised to reveal a streaming video service at a March 25 press event. While it could launch as late as summer or fall, and initially be dependent on outside subscriptions such as HBO, the company is working on a slate of high-budget shows and movies, such as an adaptation of Isaac Asimov's "Foundation" novels.

Many parties will likely be eager to gauge viewership. That could be difficult, since Apple has been notoriously secretive about customer data with services like Apple News and the now-defunct iAd. Typically it says this is a matter of privacy, but some publishers and advertisers have complained that they don't have access to standard information.

One solution could be Netflix's approach, in which data is shared with individual parties. The service has also occasionally publicized data from high-profile titles like the horror movie "Bird Box."

Regardless, it may be possible to calculate Apple's audience via indirect methods, which analysts will almost certainly try to do to get a sense of the company's success or failure.