Nielsen, Arbitron teaming up

Firms join to test portable viewer meters

NEW YORK — Nielsen Media Research, still looking for a more accurate method of recording what TV shows people are watching, has agreed to pay $1 million as part of a contract with the Arbitron Co. to test a new, portable people meter.

This deal is a first-ever partnership of Nielsen and Arbitron, who in years past were bitter rivals.

Artie Bulgrin, VP of research and sales development for ESPN, says, “This is a great sign that two former competitors have joined together to come up with new technology. It’s particularly important to us because we have significant out-of-home viewing in college dorms, bars, hotel rooms, second homes and workplaces that’s not captured by Nielsen.”

The test begins in the fourth quarter of 2000 in Wilmington, Del. Arbitron will recruit 300 Wilmington residents to wear a portable people meter the size of a pager, which is programmed to pick up TV shows and radio programs that the wearer has tuned in to, whether in her apartment or outside the home.

Each night, the recruit must insert the meter into an outlet that’s the equivalent of a docking station, which downloads the information to central headquarters.

A spokesman for Arbitron says the company’s job now is to get the seven Wilmington TV stations, the 34 local radio stations and 25 cable networks to encode their programming so that the people meters will accurately record the recruits’ preferences. Arbitron, the spokesman adds, will foot the bill for expenses incurred in the encoding.

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