NIELSEN, BBM END CANADA TV MEASUREMENT PACT: PARTNERSHIP DEAL AXED 18 MONTHS INTO 4-YEAR TERM

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[toronto] Just 18 months into a four-year agreement, the Bureau of Broadcast Measurement has decided to end its agreement with Nielsen Media Research in providing coordinated TV measurement in Canada.

The agreement gave Nielsen the right to provide all people-meter data in major Canadian markets and regions, while BBM provided diary data for the rest of the country.

Formerly, Nielsen offered both people-meter and diary data, while BBM offered diary service as it worked on introducing meters.

Duplicated service in a few markets caused many industry users to purchase both services to compare data-at additional expense.

SHAKING AN INDUSTRY

The dissolution is shaking an industry that's spent several years trying to sort out audience measurement, particularly the Association of Canadian Advertisers. That group invested $375,000 to cover some of the costs involved in restructuring both companies and build the partnership initiative.

"We finally get to step A, and before we're even entrenched . . . they decided to break the contract 18 months into a process," said a disappointed Ron Lund, ACA president. The agreement "was really supposed to stabilize the measurement system for four years."

"We were more disappointed than shocked. . .because it seemed so crazy that the whole spirit in the industry was, BBM specialize in one thing, Nielsen specialize in something else," said David Tattle, president of Nielsen Media Research. "We would never have put the industry through all the gyrations for this agreement to happen; we would never have spent all the legal fees; we would never have closed the diary service if we thought we would get a termination from BBM after 18 months."

PEOPLE METER ALTERNATIVES

BBM said it has always been openly committed to finding alternatives to the existing people meter as part of its mandate to offer choice to its members.

Ron Bremner, BBM's VP-television, said that after surveying measurement systems around the world, BBM has found a "world class" picture-matching meter it has licensed from British manufacturer Taylor Nelson AGM.

Vancouver will be the site of a showdown between BBM and Nielsen; both have announced plans for small sample starts this fall, although Nielsen is about six months ahead in its schedule to get to full sample by the end of the year. BBM expects to have a full sample in place by June 1998.

BBM plans to first introduce a dual-meter small sample, using both a frequency-matching meter and a picture-matching meter to demonstrate that the two meters will produce the same data. It then plans to use the meter in Vancouver, then roll out to other major markets-if it gets industry support, Mr. Bremner said.

Broadcasters in Vancouver said they are still in discussions with BBM and Nielsen and have not yet made a decision on which meter to support.

VANCOUVER ALREADY SPOKEN FOR

ACA has written to BBM, suggesting it go ahead and test this new meter, but in a market other than Vancouver, which was already scheduled to be measured by Nielsen.

"We are certainly after better and more efficient and cost-effective media measurement, but we want to do that in the context of a healthy, stable existence between agencies, broadcasters and advertisers," said Mr. Lund, voicing concern that BBM is heavily dominated by broadcast members. At a recent BBM board meeting, 188 broadcasters, 68 agencies and 13 advertisers were represented.

"We want to ensure good measurement as an industry, not. . .by broadcasters and agencies."

"We believe a service has to work for both the buyer of the television time, whether that's an agency or an advertiser buying it directly, and the seller," said Mr. Tattle. "If it's controlled by the seller, it loses credibility. If it's controlled by the buyer, it loses credibility. So we want to be the third party, separate from both the buyer and seller, but meeting the needs of both."

DIARIES RETURNING?

With the agreement squashed, Nielsen must now decide if it will reintroduce diary data collection in mid-to-small markets across Canada.

"I'm not sure whether the market wants a diary measurement at all [of] 40 some markets in Canada," said Mr. Tattle.

Nielsen will be talking with customers over the next 30 to 60 days to determine needs.

"Maybe there is no need, maybe there is just a need for a major market service."

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