Will new meters sweep out sweeps?

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This month's sweeps are still a huge event for the broadcast networks and station groups, but the arrival of Nielsen Media Research's local people meters could see the sweeps become a TV anachronism.

CBS got off to a strong start in the first week of the November sweeps with specials such as the "Country Music Awards" helping the network's regular fare win in the 18-49 year demo. CBS won a 4.7 rating in 18-49s with 6 million viewers, while NBC and ABC tied for second place with a 4.1 rating in 18-49s.

But with electronically controlled local people meters, advertisers now have access to data on a daily basis. As Nielsen expands the number of markets measured by the local people meters beyond Boston, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco, agencies feel the sweeps are becoming less relevant.

Brad Adgate, senior VP-corporate research at Horizon Media said, "The local people meters provide data everyday. That negates the importance of the sweeps. The effect will be a gradual moving away."

Nielsen plans to roll out people meters locally in Philadelphia and Washington in April, with Dallas and Detroit coming on board next November. The Atlanta market is expected to be metered by May 2006. Already buyers are beginning to see changes on air now that people meters are in use.

Though entertainment programming might still be skewed towards stunts, news directors appear to be taking a more measured approach since they can also see what demographics are tuning in to each segment of the news.

stunt-free news

Sue Johenning, exec VP-director of local broadcast, Initiative Media, part of Interpublic Group of Cos., said she's observed much less stunt-driven news in her own market in Los Angeles. Ms. Johenning also believes that it will take some time before the industry is comfortable with the new metrics.

Maribeth Papuga, senior VP-director of local broadcast, MediaVest USA, part of Publicis Groupe, added, "In a lot of ways our own buying systems haven't caught up yet."

Even local station chiefs believe the sweeps will diminish in importance. Dave Davies, president-general manager of WABC, New York said: "Now everyday is important. That's the result of the new system."

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