When Audiences Intersect

Jun 2, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Arbitron’s Portable People Meter, a pager-size device that measures out-of-home television viewing as well as radio-station preferences, has been used to correlate the connections among radio listeners and TV viewers in a recently completed trial in the Philadelphia market.

The benefit to advertisers from the new device’s cross-channel measurement capability is that the PPM can help “identify the cross-media buys that would best deliver target audiences for station campaigns,” according to Arbitron.

Some of the cross-media information that came out of Arbitron’s Philadelphia experiment is counter-intuitive. For example, on the broadcast TV side, PPM data indicate that radio listeners who tune in to the news/talk/sports radio format are more likely than listeners of other radio formats to watch PBS, independent stations and the Big 3 networks. Urban-format radio listeners, on the other hand, are more likely to watch The WB, UPN and Fox.On the cable side in Philly, corporate home to Comcast, the largest cable mutliple system operator of them all, PPM data show a higher percentage of urban radio listeners viewing Nickelodeon/Nick at Nite, MTV, BET and Lifetime, while CNN viewers tend to be country and news/talk/sports radio listeners.

The PPM trial also found clear correlations between radio listening habits and local market TV stations. For example, viewers of the early Monday through Friday newscast on WPVI-TV, Philly’s ABC affiliate, made up 50 percent of the persons 12-plus average quarter-hour audience for the adult contemporary radio format.

Additionally, different local TV late news programs show quite different profiles of audiences by radio format. According to Arbitron, the late-news show on ABC’s WPVI drew a large percentage of sports radio listeners, partly because of the Monday Night Football audience spillover during the period of the test.

At WCAU-TV, the local NBC affiliate, late-news viewers included more than one-third (38 percent) of the persons 12-plus average-quarter-hour audience listening to the country radio format.

WPHL-TV, the local WB affiliate, drew one-third (35 percent) of all sports radio format listeners in the market to its prime-time offerings, despite the fact that the station carried no sports programming during the PPM survey period.

At WPSG-TV, the local UPN affiliate, prime-time viewers included 43 percent of the persons 12-plus AQH audience listening to the urban radio format.

The PPM is a passive measuring device that requires only the PPM panel member to wear it and then to remember to return it to its docking station, just as one would return a cellphone to a charger at the end of the day. The PPM works by decoding an inaudible audio signal that participating radio and TV outlets encode in their programming. Once back in its docking station, the PPM automatically sends its data back to Arbitron to be tabulated.

One criticism of the PPM is that it could record data from TVs and radios simply playing in its vicinity, programming that the panelist may not in fact be listening to or watching-in a bar, for example, when the panelist may be sitting with her or his back to the TV set and paying no attention to the programming, or in a room where sounds are entering from outside, when the panelist may be sitting quietly reading, but the device detects a signal from a loud radio or a nearby TV set coming through the wall from the next apartment.

The Arbitron test in Philadelphia was partly funded by Nielsen Media Research. A Nielsen spokesman declined to address the latest cross-media data directly, but did say: “T his is an example of what the PPM can do … and that is one of the reasons why we’re interested, and one of the reasons why we’re working with Arbitron.”

Since the inception of the PPM trials, the device has been reporting generally higher viewing levels for many younger-skewing stations and networks.

Arbitron’s PPM Philadelphia experiment, consisting of approximately 1,500 PPM-wearing panelists, measured 49 different radio stations, both AM and FM, that together accounted for more than for more than 81 percent of all radio listening in the market; 11 broadcast channels and 30 cable networks.

The participating broadcast stations included the affiliates of all six broadcast networks, the local PBS, Univision, Telemundo and Pax stations and WGTW-TV, a local minority-owned independent station.

Participating cable networks ranged from A&E to VH1 and included such cable majors as Comedy Central, Court TV, Discovery, MTV, TBS, TNT and all the cable-news networks, with the exception of Fox News Channel.

The latest generation of the PPM measures about 3 cubic inches, with a weight of about 2.5 ounces.

The cross-media data were collected from Nov. 21, 2002, to Jan. 15, 2003. The panel from which the data were collected was discontinued last April.

Additional PPM testing in the United States is expected to be announced shortly. Currently, Arbitron is testing the PPM in Latin America. Additionally, the PPM has been deployed to approximately 875 persons in Montreal and approximately 450 persons in Quebec, creating two Canadian panels that are scheduled to begin reporting television ratings in the fourth quarter of the year.