Nielsen Grows Local People Meter

Measurement method will be in top 10 markets by 2005
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A year-long run in the Boston market has drawn mixed reviews at best, but Nielsen Media Research has scheduled rollout of its expensive and controversial "Local People Meters" in the rest of the top 10 DMAs—representing nearly 32 million households and 30% of TV viewers nationally—over the next two years.

Nielsen said last week it will also double the size of the national People Meter sample to 10,000.

Although the meters can deliver key demographic information to programmers and advertisers overnight, Boston broadcasters and some group executives have objected to the additional expense, criticized the technology and questioned results that show lower viewership than the previous Nielsen system.

The ratings service said its Local People Meters (LPMs) will become the standard TV-measurement method in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco next year. The remaining top-10 markets—Washington, Detroit, Dallas-Fort Worth, Atlanta and Philadelphia—are scheduled for the following year. Philadelphia has been experimenting with Arbitron Inc.'s Portable People Meter, for which Nielsen has provided some of the funding.

Last week's announcement came on the heels of Nielsen's deal with NBC, which has been valued around a half billion dollars, bringing LPMs to NBC's numerous networks and its NBC and Telemundo TV stations.

Nielsen also cited support from ABC-owned stations and prominent top-10-market MSOs Comcast Corp. and Time Warner Cable (in New York and Los Angeles) and Los Angeles interconnect Adlink.

Viacom and Tribune are talking to Nielsen, but sources say no deal appears imminent.

Susan D. Whiting, president and chief executive officer for Nielsen Media Research, said Nielsen always had confidence that the Local People Meters were the best available form of measurement and the addition of "significant support from a broad set or players" that are particularly prominent in top-10 markets allowed it to move forward at this point.

"The sum of all the support from NBC, ABC, Comcast, along with our experience in Boston with Hearst," added to the company's confidence, Whiting said.

Nielsen also maintains its interest in other technologies, she added, and continues to work with Arbitron regarding its Portable People Meters. However, she asserted, the Nielsen LPMs are clearly the current gold standard of measurement.

Pat Liguori, vice president, research, for the ABC owned television stations, said, "Our decision to support the rollout of Nielsen's Local People Meter service reflects our commitment to work with Nielsen. We believe it's important to maintain the value and relevancy of the currency used within our industry."

NBC acknowledged that LPMs would be the technology of choice for TV stations in the near future, although it will maintain its interest in the Arbitron Portable People Meter.

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