New York-headquartered international media and marketing research specialist Arbitron today marked the successful completion of the first phase of its Portable People Meter market trial in the US with the release of a third round of ratings comparisons for its new television, cable and radio audience measurement system.

The pager-sized PPM is carried by consumers and automatically detects inaudible codes that TV and radio broadcasters as well as cable networks embed in the audio portion of their programming via Arbitron-supplied encoders. At the end of each day, the survey participants place the meters into base stations that recharge the devices and send the collected codes to Arbitron for tabulation.

The company claims that compared to ratings supplied by conventional audience measurement systems, the PPM reports higher total-day AQH (average quarter-hour) estimates for consumer use of radio, TV and cable. This, it argues, indicates that the PPMs are tracking media exposure missed by today's generation of TV and radio ratings methods.

According to Arbitron's Marshall Snyder: “Our success in the first phase of the US market trial keeps us on a fast track to deploy the PPM in local markets across the United States. By the second quarter of 2002, the industry will have the first direct comparisons of PPM audience estimates for individual radio and TV stations as well as cable networks. This is the information our customers have been looking forward to as they prepare to use a new way of measuring radio, television and cable audiences."

Since December 2000, the PPM has been undergoing US market trials in Wilmington, Delaware, a segment of the Philadelphia TV market. Arbitron has also released ratings results from the first phase of the trial on July 19 and September 24, 2001.

The next phase beginning in January will see an expansion of the sample to at least 1,500 people across the entire Philadelphia Designated Market Area. The increased sample size in the second phase of the trial will allow direct comparisons of audiences for individual radio stations and formats, TV stations and cable networks.

The market trial is supported technologically and financially by Nielsen Media Research which also has an option to join Arbitron in the commercial deployment of the PPM within the United States.

News sources: Daily Research News Online; Arbitron website