all the squabbling in Boston over adoption of the local people
meter, it was assumed that the
rollout of the viewer tracking device in the nation’s other top 10
markets would occur pretty steadily.
It was a reasonable assumption, especially after so much
resistance on the part of local TV affiliate stations fell apart.
But it's not going to go quite so smoothly, it
Some trouble with the samples in Los Angeles has Nielsen
Media Research thinking it may have to delay the start of live data
from the city, which was to have been the country’s second LPM
Instead of an April launch it could be weeks or perhaps
months before LA launches.
Research said yesterday that it will decide this week, possibly as
early as today, whether the target date is feasible for a service that was
supposed to begin in October but has been pushed back several times
as Nielsen refines its sample.
“The difference between the people meters and the diary
is that they’re [people meters] supposed to be more accurate,”
says Maribeth Papuga, MediaVest senior vice president and director
of local broadcast. “If you have flaws, and uncover that large
chunks of respondents aren’t responding to the meter, like the
diary, you’re back to the same problems where people are
concerned. You want to believe the data and that it’s been
At this rate New York City and not LA may become
the nation’s second live LPM market. Nielsen says NYC’s April
launch seems to be on target.
The difficulties Nielsen is having in
measuring the heterogeneous LA population is because many non-native
English speakers, bi-lingual speakers and Spanish speakers reside
there, and Nielsen is having trouble getting the right sample.
to sit down in the next day or so to look at the final sample,”
says Nielsen senior vice president Jack Loftus. “We do this the
month before a launch. New York looks good; LA, I don’t know
“In the ethnic households and in other
households they’re not seeing people respond and use the remote to
record who is watching the programs, so they’re getting nothing in
some of those households,” Papuga says.
Loftus objects to that categorization, saying
that Nielsen has seen higher levels of cooperation in both African
American and Hispanic households than other households.
“The issue with ethnic homes in LA is that
we are under in the category identified as mostly Spanish spoken in
the home,” Loftus says. “In terms of overall ethnic, we don’t
have an issue there at all. But people have a lot of different
impressions based on the different sample levels the past six to
Loftus says it’s
probably too early to tell whether there will be delays in Chicago,
the next sample rollout targeted for June. Nielsen aims to have the
top 10 markets covered by May 2006.
Though many media
people are eager to see the LPM data, they don’t want the process
to be so rushed that the early results are off target. LPMs will
allow for the delivery of local demographic information daily,
information that is currently only available during the sweeps
periods for local markets.
The result will be a
huge impact on local advertising, and that is why the LPMs have
become so controversial. The Boston revolt, which began shortly
after the device went live in May 2002, was triggered by local
stations unhappy with the discrepancies between paper diary results and
LPM results, which often recorded rises for smaller networks
and dropoffs for the bigger, easier-to-remember networks that
dominate paper diaries.
One complaint is that the LPM over-reports
cable TV audiences. Coupled with the fact that it costs more than
the current system, that leaves few incentives for broadcasters to
make the switch.
opinion is intuitively I think it will show a greater audience to
cable, and that will change the dynamic between buyer and seller
because it will illustrate that local cable is a more viable
option,” says Kevin Gallagher, senior vice president and director
of local investment group at Starcom.
The resistance eventually subsided in Boston, with all the major
networks signing up for the LPM for their owned and operated
stations in the top 10 markets. A number of cable TV systems,
including Comcast, have also signed up.
“If you compare
between how you do in the diaries and the people meters, in some
instances you’ll do better in the diary than the people meter, but
I don’t know anyone who maintains that the diary is a superior
data collection method than the electronic meter is,” Loftus says.
criticized the use of diaries in major markets. People don’t
remember that they watched a small station or cable system, and they
put the big station in their diary. It overstates some viewing and
it understates others.”
non-Nielsen research to back up criticism of paper diaries. A study
on research collection methodology released earlier this month by
Ball State University’s Center for Media Design found that
telephone interviews were the least reliable media usage recorder,
followed by paper diaries, whose users reported a 12 percent average
difference in TV usage time than those observed by researchers.
But media people are
mainly concerned that the data they share with their clients be
correct, no matter what the methodology.
“I'm sure some people are up in arms about the delay, but give
Nielsen credit for erring on the side of caution,” says Brad Adgate, senior vice president and corporate research director at
Horizon. “Yes, we have waited this long for the roll-out; it's
better to be safe than sorry.”