Nielsen Takes Wait-and-See Attitude Toward PPM

As Arbitron moves ahead with further tests of its Portable People Meter measuring service and hopes for a joint venture with Nielsen Media Research that could ensure its future, Nielsen is taking a wait and see approach.

Arbitron has had a full year of results from its Philadelphia market test, and company executives are saying the data has been strikingly consistent. They acknowledge that there's more work ahead to convince the media industry and Nielsen that it can perform to its promise. But they point out that PPM technology is being tested throughout the world and even used for television and radio ratings in a few areas, including Montreal and Quebec City.

Owen Charlebois, president of U.S. media services at Arbitron, said recently that for the rest of 2003 and 2004 the PPM will be going through a well-defined series of tests and due diligence with Nielsen.

"Hopefully [that] will move us closer to a joint venture decision and ultimately to the deployment of PPM as a currency in the United States," Charlebois said.



Yet Nielsen, which has its own People Meter system of measurement, is taking a wait-and-see attitude toward PPM. Nielsen continues the due diligence process but hasn't said much to its clients until it has time to review the results, said Nielsen spokesman Jack Loftus.

"At this point, Nielsen is going full speed ahead with People Meters into the top 10 markets, and possibly beyond," Loftus said. "So we are going ahead with a proven technology - the People Meter - that works, and is the currency for national TV audience measurement."

Loftus said Nielsen is going to wait and see how the PPM measures up and no one can predict when if and PPM will reach the currency stage.

Arbitron has stated repeatedly that a joint venture with Nielsen would be the preferred option for going ahead with PPM. But Charlebois said earlier this month that the company was exploring a number of "possibilities" with PPM, including radio-only deployment should Nielsen decide not to go ahead with the joint venture.

"It's a little bit early to share the details," Charlebois said. He said that for PPM to succeed, there has to be industry acceptance, not just financially but also with the encoding embedded over the TV, radio and cable signals that are read by the PPM. Charlebois said that the joint venture with Nielsen would lead to reaching more markets on a faster timetable and a larger sample size than any other scenario.

"We are working hard to make that happen," he said.

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