Auds’ viewing technology gets personal

TNS, Arbitron eye Singapore as test market

SINGAPORE — Audience measurement discrepancies in Asia could be a thing of the past if technology like the personal people-meter fulfills its promise.

Researchers Taylor Nelson Sofres (TNS) and technology provider Arbitron hope to test the meter in Singapore beginning early next year, to be followed by pan-regional roll-out. But all depends upon TV media owners’ willingness to have their back-end broadcast audio encoded.

“If any broadcaster in Singapore refuses to participate, this can’t be the test-bed market,” admits TNS regional director media Phillip Jones. “But cost of audio-encoding (a one-time fee of $2,000) is not the barrier to entry, it’s the mindset change that is.”

The personal people-meter, resembling a pocket-sized pager, picks up the audio codes and logs the carrier’s exposure to TV and radio throughout the day, both in and out of home.

“Methodology aside, this type of audience measurement is long overdue,” says Anand J. Rego research director at ESPN Star Sports, a channel that has much to gain from out-of-home measurement with sports often viewed in pubs, bars and coffee shops across Asia.

With more than one new audience measurement technology on the horizon, TNS rival Nielsen Media Research (NMR) has Watchmeter and another new tool in development. Rego says it’s far too early to predict which will take hold.

But any change is welcome in a region that has rival firms with conflicting research methodologies causing data inconsistencies.

Within Singapore alone, the very public ratings spat between rival free-to-air broadcasters MediaCorp and SPH MediaWorks, which use TNS and NMR respectively, has raged for almost two years.

According to Arbitron, personal people-meter trials in North America and Europe — notably Philadelphia, Montreal and Belgium — have been popular with media owners and advertisers.

TNS’ Phillip Jones says the caution surrounding the move from set-top people-meter to portable people-meter is reminiscent of the original move from diary-based to people- meter monitoring.

“It’s an evolution of methodology and technology that can be funded by the advertisers themselves. If they have a clear target demographic, we can simply measure what media those consumers are watching/listening to,” says Jones.

It’s also been suggested that many broadcasters in Asia prefer hiding behind data inconsistencies that having their real ratings exposed.

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