People meter

People meter

The People meter is a device and system used to measure the viewing habits of TV and cable audiences. It was invented by a British company called Audits of Great Britain (AGB). The successor company to AGB is TNS, which is active in 34 countries around the globe.

In its early years, the system worked by identifying the frequency of the VHF or UHF channel being watched on the TV set. These meters were called "frequency based meters". A probe needed to be inserted into the tuner of the TV being measured. This system became obsolete when satellite broadcast (DTH) became popular and viewers started to get their own satellite decoders. In this case, the TV channels were selected on the decoders and inserting a probe in them became difficult. Worse, these couldn't measure digital broadcasts.

Later on, new techniques like picture/audio matching were introduced.

Of late, at the broadcaster or cable network, an audio/video encoder is installed. This device imprints special signaling into the video and audio signals of that entity. At the home, a device is installed that allows the panelist and their family to log in and out of a TV set, allowing the meter company to develop ratings data for that market.

The People Meter is a “box” — about the size of a paperback book — that's hooked up to each television set and is accompanied by a remote control unit. Each family member in a sample household is assigned a personal viewing button, which is matched to that person's age and sex. Whenever the TV is turned on, a light flashes on the meter, reminding viewers to press their assigned button and to indicate that they're watching television. Additional buttons on the People Meter enable guests who are also watching to participate in the sample by entering their age, sex and viewing status into the system.

New system for measuring habits of TV audience is called "Picture Matching" and it is now testing by TNS.

References

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