|Arbitron said it will go its own way to work with cable and broadcast TV entitites to develop applications for Portable People Meter services.
A statement from Nielsen’s Dutch parent VNU said Nielsen will instead “pursue multiple options to measure television.”
The PPM is a pager-like device, carried by a sample of consumers, that picks up inaudible signals encoded within media. The PPM offers a distinct advantage that Nielsen’s current measurement systems lack: the ability to measure general out-of-home TV viewing. In its most recent trial, in Houston, virtually every TV and radio company encoded signals, along with several major retailers who were hoping to track consumers by encoding in-store audio.
Nielsen has been in talks with Arbitron about a partnership for several years, and in November expanded its due-diligence team, adding more experts in engineering, methodological research, statistical research, operations, IT and reporting, to evaluate the PPM for TV-audience measurement. VNU’s Nielsen Media Research and AC Nielsen units are already collaborating with Arbitron on Project Apollo, a market-research joint venture that marries consumer multimedia and purchase information to understand buying patterns.
Nielsen said it would “adopt a portfolio strategy to measure television,” which likely means it will use various methods to measure various types of viewing, such as in home vs. out of home. It didn’t rule out licensing the PPM technology to measure out-of-home viewing.
The move comes as VNU awaits formal acquisition bids from a consortium of private-equity groups by the end of the week. Some shareholders have advocated splitting the company into three different parts and selling them off separately. It’s unclear if and how much those factors played into the decision to forgo an Arbitron partnership.
Arbitron to go own way
Arbitron did not profess disappointment. “This decision frees us up to build a service to meet radio’s needs as radio,” said Thom Mocarsky, a spokesman. In a statement, Arbitron CEO Steve Morris said the company intends to work directly with the broadcast and cable TV industry on additional services to use the PPM.
Arbitron has signed up all the major media agencies to use its PPM data and two radio groups, Beasley Broadcasting and Spanish Broadcasting Systems. Arbitron has also conducted two trials of the service, in Houston and Philadelphia, and has said it will roll out PPMs more broadly in the next five years.