TNS is poised to snatch the £10m contract to measure UK TV audiences from incumbent AGB Nielsen Media Research with a system that can also measure all platform and out-of-home viewing.
The Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board (BARB) is expected to confirm this week that TNS/Arbitron will take on the contract from 2010 following a tender process begun in December last year.
It is not clear how the move will be received by the industry, as some TV industry sources have expressed concern that the TNS/Arbitron Portable People Meter (PPM) is “unsuitable”. They also point to the US, where Nielsen Media Research rejected using PPM for TV audience claiming that it did not fulfil TV measurement requirements and was also too expensive.
The issues have led TV industry experts to question the benefit of choosing a “little-tested” system, potentially offered as a “loss- leader” to clinch the lucrative business.
There have also been concerns that the switch to the new measurement system may cause fluctuations in ITV’s viewing figures, which could exacerbate the ailing channel’s viewing problems.
BARB and radio audience measurement body Rajar have been working with TNS/Arbitron on tests since January this year.
The trio set-up a trial panel of 500 adults within the M25 area to test the meters.
The PPMs are similar to pagers and track what media people are exposed to throughout the day, such as consumption of TV over mobile phones, handheld gadgets such as Sony PSPs and screens outside the home. They are estimated to be as much as 60% more expensive than the diaries already used, although supporters say they are more futureproof than existing systems.
Trial figures are not included in the data BARB releases to the industry. It is thought BARB will continue using the pilot group alongside Nielsen data until 2010.
AGB Nielsen, a joint venture between Nielsen and WPP, won the contract in 2000, breaking a previous 30-year association with TNS.
A BARB spokeswoman says no decision for the contract post-2010 has been made.