Exclusive: Are You Ready for Some Cable?


If the city of Houston is any indication, the Monday Night Football habit is a tough one to kick, and  ESPN scoring even bigger audiences than its already record-breaking numbers have suggested.

In Houston, Arbitron has been testing its portable people meters, which measure out-of-home viewing,  and the results for cable-only sports broadcasts suggest a chunk of the broadcast audience moves to where the action is, whether that is a friend with cable or a bar or restaurant.

According to numbers supplied to B&C, for the Sept. 17 Cowboys-Redskins game, which was broadcast on NBC, out-of-home viewing in the 18-49 demo was 17.8%, a little above average for prime time out-of-home, while for the same demo almost a quarter of viewing to the next day's ESPN Monday Night Game between the Steelers and Jaguars was out of home (24.5%).

The contrast was even greater among the 18-34 crowd. A whopping 35% of 18-34's were watching the ESPN game somewhere else than home, almost four times the 9.6% of 18-34' who left home to watch the Redskins-Cowboys game.

“The data suggest that viewers who do not subscribe to cable may be going where they can get it in order to see major events televised on cable only,” said Arbitron spokesman Thom Mocarsky.

Not surprisingly, Arbitron plans to drill down into the relationship of out-of-home and cable.

Arbitron's portable meters track not just the "who" and "what," but the "where," of TV viewing, using a pager-size device that picks up codes embedded in a program's audio signal.

It is being tested in Houston, with a second test scheduled to launch in Philadelphia in January.