The long-awaited portable people meter ratings joint-venture between Nielsen Media Research and Arbitron bit the dust on Wednesday, after Nielsen decided not to exercise its option to proceed with the fullscale project.

The duo have been working on the PPM venture since May 2000, with Nielsen contributing financial support and research expertise. Nielsen's option expired on February 28.

Undeterred, Arbitron says it will continue the previously announced strategy of rolling out a PPM-based radio ratings service, starting with Houston, Texas later this year

Steve Morris, Arbitron president/ceo, says: "The termination of the option now gives Arbitron complete flexibility to meet the needs of our customers in terms of when and at what speed we deploy the Portable People Meter as an audience ratings system in the United States."

As a consquence Arbitron could find itself in direct competition with its ex-partner. Reveals Morris: "We intend to work directly with the broadcast television and cable industry on additional, non-currency services that utilize the PPM."

Nielsen president/ceo Susan Whiting explains the reasons behind its surprise exit: "We recognize the appeal of a portable, single-source measurement tool. While it may offer considerable benefits for radio research, we believe that a one-size-fits-all measurement system is not the approach for a currency in today's complex television markets."

Nonetheless, says Morris: "Nielsen is particularly interested in using the PPM to add a measure of out-of-home television viewing to their existing television ratings services."

The decision by the companies to go their separate ways does not affect Project Apollo [WAMN: 07-Feb-06], the national marketing research service, in which Arbitron and Nielsen parent VNU are partners.

Data sourced from AdWeek (USA); additional content by WARC staff