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Nielsen unveils refined peoplemeter to clients

First changes since late '80s

NEW YORK — Nielsen Media Research’s national clients will get their first look at the newly refined peoplemeters, which have not been altered since their U.S. launch in the late 1980s, this week in Orlando.

More than 300 representatives from Nielsen’s national clients began arriving at Walt Disney World Monday for a week’s worth of panels, workshops and Q&A sessions designed to inform Nielsen’s customers how its products are evolving to meet the changing television landscape.

The National Customer Meeting, which runs at Disney’s Swan Hotel from Monday night to Friday morning, marks the first time Nielsen has invited all of its national clients — broadcast networks, cable networks, syndicators, advertisers and ad agencies — to participate in such a forum.

Nielsen spokesman Jack Loftus said that the new peoplemeter, which is just beginning to undergo testing, is designed to get participants to input their viewing data into the meter more accurately.

Loftus said the refinements in the peoplemeter will include changes in viewer prompts and non-prompts. For example, when a participant changes channels, the peoplemeter system might prompt the viewer to re-input data. Or if no data is input for a period of time, a light might flash to ask the viewer if additional data needs to be added.

Nielsen will begin testing a new series of prompts and non-prompts the company believes will result in more reliable informa-tion.

While these types of changes in the peoplemeter may seem minute, any changes in the system result in changes in the ratings.

“When you ask people to do something in a different way, it will affect the numbers,” said Loftus. “We’ll report to our cus-tomers how we think these changes will affect the data.”

The new peoplemeter will be included in the 500-home test in the Northeast, where Nielsen previously announced it will test its new Digital Meter. This Digital Meter is being developed to deal with the forthcoming rollout of digital TV sets.

In the future, if, for instance, CBS’ signal is multicasting four different programs simultaneously, the Digital Meter will be required to read which of the four programs the viewer is watching.

In addition to data-collection issues, such as the new peoplemeter and the Digital Meter, Nielsen’s Orlando gathering will also delve into data processing and data delivery.

There will also be a panel of Nielsen’s customers talking about how the term “watching TV” should be defined in an era where people can watch TV through their home computers and use their TV sets to surf the World Wide Web.

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