Can Set Meters Save Money?
A Comparison of Set Meter and Peoplemeter Panel Costs

Erwin Ephron,
Ephron Papazian & Ephron, Inc.
Linda Baniel,
Adcom Information Services

There is considerable interest here and overseas in the set meter panel (with viewing modeled) as an alternative to the current peoplemeter panel technique. The attraction of the set meter is its lower cost and better compliance.

Set meters are used extensively in television audience measurement. They are a part of the standard meter/diary package employed by Nielsen Media Research in the larger TV markets. At this time viewer modeling techniques are used only for local cable audience estimates.

Modeling viewers from set meter tuning data to produce a more cost-effective ratings system is an old idea. It was first suggested in a paper to the Royal Statistical Society by Ehrenberg and Twyman in 1966.1 The authors argued that it is not cost-effective to repeatedly measure behavior that shows little variation, such as viewers-per-set. The money would be better spent measuring behavior that varies widely, such as channel tuned.