Shuttle May Launch Out-of-Home Era

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Houston, we've solved a problem.

A quarter of the viewers who watched the July 26 launch of the space shuttle on Houston broadcast and cable outlets were watching it somewhere other than at home.

That's according to the results of Arbitron's Houston test of its portable people meters (PPM), which users carry with them to track "every exposure to encoded media." Nielsen is helping fund the trial.

Broadcasters have long sought a way to get more credit for out-of-home viewing, which would help them boost their ad rates accordingly.

Arbitron tested its PPM in Philadelphia in 2002-2003, but it could only register the total of in and out-of-home viewing, not which was which.

According to Arbitron spokesman Tom Mocarsky, the Houston PPM includes a base-station RF transimtter that distinguishes between viewing within a fixed radius of the station and that outside of it.

Preliminary estimates from the PPM market trial showed that 118,300 viewers watched the coverage out-of-home, which was 25% of the audience to the five TV stations and four cable outlets that covered the launch and 11.3% of the total audience.

“With its unique ability to track exposure to television no matter where it occurs, the PPM quantified, for the first time, the complete television audience, in and out-of-home,” said PPM President Pierre Bouvard, who is in charge of the new meters.

Unike set-top meters, which require viewers to push buttons and watch the attached TV, the portable meters passively record the media environment of a moving subject.

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