T.O. meters forge ahead

Nielsen and bbm are pushing ahead with their deal to bring people meter measurement to the local Toronto tv market despite a Bureau of Competition Policy ruling they have to recast their joint submission to the federal body if they want...

Nielsen and bbm are pushing ahead with their deal to bring people meter measurement to the local Toronto tv market despite a Bureau of Competition Policy ruling they have to recast their joint submission to the federal body if they want its approval of their contract.

This past summer, Toronto-based BBM Bureau of Measurement and Nielsen Marketing Research announced an agreement that would see Nielsen introduce electronic people meter measurement to the local Toronto tv market and withdraw its paper diary service.

Regional markets

Ontario and Quebec regional markets would also be people metered. bbm, on the other hand, would concentrate on diary measurement in all other tv markets.

bbm President Owen Charlebois said in a Dec. 2 interview with Strategy neither bbm nor Nielsen had yet received written notice of the bureau’s ruling turning aside their submission for an ‘advisory decision’ on the contract, but both had been reached by telephone.

On Dec. 1, the bureau ruled bbm and Nielsen had to seek a ‘specialization agreement’ from the federal body for their contract instead of an advisory decision.

‘Optimistic’

Says Charlebois: ‘We are optimistic that we will obtain the specialization agreement, but, in the meantime, the bureau appears to be going to let us implement the agreement with Nielsen immediately, and will not prosecute bbm or Nielsen while we seek the specialization agreement.’

bbm’s lawyer, James Musgrove, of Lang Michener in Toronto, says the reason for the bureau’s specialization agreement demand is statutory.

Musgrove says it is his educated guess the specialization agreement process will take six months, and will cover any eventual people meter expansion into local tv markets outside of Toronto.

David Tattle, Nielsen group vice-president in Markham, Ont., says he does not believe the introduction of people meters in Toronto will be delayed despite the bureau’s ruling.

June start date

Tattle says he is soon to begin advising his clients that next June is the likely start date.

Tattle says Nielsen’s lawyers have suggested there is a compelling case for bureau approval of the deal, not because of the paperwork that has been done or the legal help, but because the tv industry wants people meters.

‘I think, if, in fact, we’d given the bureau more time – we signed our agreement on the 15th of September, we contacted the bureau the same day, and we needed a decision from them by December 1st,’ Tattle says.

‘Very complex’

‘[The bureau] found our industry to be very complex,’ he says. ‘They found it very difficult to understand the interplay between agencies and broadcasters, and why advertisers cared about the measurement system.

‘If we’d given them more time, I am certain we would have got a solid `yes.’ ‘

As for installing people meters into other local tv markets, Tattle says the agreement between bbm and Nielsen mentions expanding to Montreal and Vancouver in September 1997, although that date could be moved up if those markets are ready earlier.

Charlebois says, in the event the specialization agreement is turned down, the tv measurement scene will return to how it was before the two parties drew up their contract, although he stresses that is not bbm’s wish.

Outside of the parties directly involved, there has been little said about the bureau’s demand for a resubmission from Nielsen and bbm.

Hugh Dow, president of Initiative Media in Toronto and a well-known figure in media circles, says no one has communicated to him news of any change, although he notes the Association of Canadian Advertisers has planned a question-and-answer session about people meters in Toronto the morning of Dec. 9.