People Meters Are Coming


With three of the four major networks on board, the launch of local people meters in Los Angeles by Nielsen Media Research, expected next month, will almost certainly be less contentious than last year's Boston launch.

The bulk of Los Angeles's major stations have already signed on through group deals by NBC, CBS and ABC, as well as Comcast. That includes with top-rated local-news station KNBC(TV), NBC's two Telemundo stations, KABC-TV, and Viacom's KCBS-TV/KCAL(TV) duopoly.

As in Boston, Fox (which owns two English-language stations in Los Angeles) and Tribune are holdouts, leaving Fox's KTTV(TV) and KCOP(TV) and Tribune's KTLA(TV) unable to use Nielsen after the launch. The research firm says both are in discussions regarding group deals. Neither group nor the stations would comment.

Since Nielsen reached its agreement covering the NBC and ABC groups earlier this year, though, local-people-meter technology has been the inevitable standard of measurement for the future. Hearst-Argyle, which owns WCVB(TV) Boston, had signed on earlier, and the largest station group, Viacom, signed on over the summer.

"It's a more rational way to program and operate a television station," said Paul LaCamera, general manager at WCVB, "The best thing about this new system is that it has moderated the schizophrenia of the sweeps periods. We'll no longer program TV stations around those four months of the year because we'll be receiving overnight demographics and monthly measurements 12 months a year."

The lower measured viewing remains a problem for station executives in Boston as well as Los Angeles. "We'll be looking at the cooperation rates and at the parallel," said Alan Wurtzel, president of research for NBC. "In the end, a rating is a number. Ratings are technically estimates. The advertisers will put their dollars where the advertising is most effective."