Portable People Meters Find More People Watching Sports

New data suggests that out-of-home TV viewing surges for sports events, if tests by media measurement firm Arbitron in Houston, Texas are representative. Using its Portable People Meter (PPM), a passive electronic measurement device carried by consumers, Arbitron measured out-of-home exposure to NBC's broadcasts of NFL Sunday Night Football in Houston, revealing a cohort of "out of home" viewers that accounted for a third of the total audience.

Arbitron measured games broadcast on Houston's KPRC-TV on August 6, 13, and 20, as well as regular season games shown on Sunday, September 10, the prime-time game, and two games on KRIV, owned by Fox. To give one example, according to Arbitron, 31.1 percent of the total audience ages 25-54 in Houston watched the game out-of-home on August 13. That's more than twice as much as the typical 13 percent who view TV out of home overall.

Moreover, Carol Edwards, vice president of television sales for Arbitron, said these kinds of out-of-home surges aren't confined to sporting events: "We're seeing out-of-home viewing in categories beyond sports, including a lot of daytime television." Although Edwards wouldn't speculate why that is, waiting rooms, lobbies, and restaurants may bolster daytime exposure in the same way bars pump up football. Edwards noted that "it can also be at a friend's house."



To enable this kind of study, PPM subjects agree to have a low-intensity beacon installed in their homes that the PPM reads. That allows Arbitron to determine where their media exposure occurs and discern between domestic and out-of-home.

Edwards said the new PPM technology could easily be applied to new out-of-home TV, which has been proliferating in recent years: "Arbitron feels strongly that out-of-home is a new frontier." Networks include Gas Station TV, launched on June 5th, and a new network in New York's Duane Reade pharmacies scheduled to go live in Fall 2006. Meanwhile, an established network, Captivate, has installed 7,000 screens in elevators in 700 office buildings throughout the U.S. and Canada, with contracts to install about 400 more, according to founder and CEO Mike DiFranza.

However, Edwards was careful to note that Arbitron isn't positioning these out-of-home measurements as competition with industry standard Nielsen. "We see this as a complementary service to Nielsen--we do not see it is competitive," Edwards said. "This is all incremental viewing."

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