Positive Portable Metering

WASHINGTON–The first readings from Arbitron’s Portable People Meter, currently being tested in the Philadelphia TV market, shows larger audiences across the board for broadcast and cable TV than Nielsen?s current local TV measurement system.

But the pager-like device — which reads specially-coded signals from TV, cable and radio to determine media exposure in the home or out — shows radio audience levels, with few exceptions, equivalent to measurements from Arbitron?s current diary methodology.

“The results are logical when you consider the capabilities designed into the PPM since it measures TV, cable and radio at all locations, in and out of the home,” said Marshall Snyder, who leads the meter’s development for Arbitron.

Worn by consumers, the meters pick up inaudible messages from specially encoded radio, TV and cable audio.

The market’s eight TV stations had a combined 11.9 average rating, versus 10.9 from Nielsen?s set-top meters and diaries.

Cable viewing doubled with the portable meter, to 2.0 versus 1.0 based on Nielsen?s meters and diaries.

Radio listening levels came in at 9.1 versus 9.0 under current techniques — but with notable differences. Portable meters showed more people listening to radio daily but for shorter periods: 2 hours and 12 minutes per day versus 2 hours and 30 minutes for the diary. There were also audience shifts in radio dayparts, more listening on weekends and late night, and less during morning drive time, where ratings were down to 10.2 on the portable meter from 11.7 on the diary.

The results were based on a sample of 260 people in Wilmington, Del., part of the Philadelphia TV market, who have carried the portable meters since the test began last December. Of the 71 media outlets asked to participate, 63 are encoding — 38 radio stations, all eight local TV stations, and 17 of the 25 cable networks. Initial results were based on eight TV stations, 35 radio stations and eight cable networks.

Nielsen Media Research, which invested in the test and has an option to form a joint venture with Arbitron when and if the service launches in local markets, was cautious about the results. In a statement, Nielsen said the Portable People Meter “makes its own determination, passively, when a person is in the audience. The industry-agreed standard definition of ‘television audience’ is based on people in the sample reporting when they consider themselves to be ‘watching’ or ‘listening’ to television.”

Arbitron said it will expand the test to the entire Philadelphia market and increase the sample to 1,500 people. It also intends to increase financial support for the project, said Arbitron President Steve Morris.