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A family-owned Brazilian market research company is challenging A.C. Nielsen in Latin America.

Sao Paulo-based IBOPE, Brazilian Institute of Opinion and Statistical Research, is moving aggressively from providing political polls to offering TV audience ratings, ad spending measurement and People Meter technology.

The company's owners, brothers Luis Paulo and Carlos Augusto Montenegro, also want to start measuring Internet use and retail audits, a Nielsen stronghold.

Their major challenge is wooing U.S. cable networks, planning to start measuring Latin American cable audiences this year.

"IBOPE and Nielsen are probably the only two companies that could pull it off," said Barry Koch, VP-research for Turner Broadcasting's TNT channel. "IBOPE is coming on like a truck in terms of wanting the business."

IBOPE and Nielsen operate in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico and Peru. IBOPE also has a Chilean partner, Grupo Time, and in Venezuela is associated with AGB.

IBOPE is strong in terrestrial TV audience measurement, a market Nielsen has entered in Argentina and Colombia and is slowly getting into in Brazil.

"If IBOPE gets the business, it's essential for them to establish a presence in the U.S.," Mr. Koch said.

IBOPE began its international expansion in 1990 when the Montenegro brothers saw that Latin American TV channel privatization would lead to a greater market for research. In 1995, $10 million of IBOPE's sales of $47 million were outside Brazil.

IBOPE's regional expansion has been linked to its DataIBOPE system for collecting TV audience data using its own People Meters. In SÌo Paulo and Chile, the company can exclusively measure audiences and transmit the data in real time, said Luis Paulo Montenegro, IBOPE's director of operations.

In April, IBOPE will produce a meter that can measure 15 people in one household and an unlimited number of channels. It will also be non-intrusive, unlike meters that require equipment be inserted in the TV set being monitored.

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