Westfield, N.J. -- Following in the footsteps of the
"Big Four" broadcasters, ESPN last week became the first cable network to ink a
letter of intent to sign up for Statistical Research Inc.'s new national TV-ratings
In addition to ESPN, Procter & Gamble Co., Ammirati
Puris Lintas and McCann-Erickson also signed similar, nonbinding "letters of intent
to discuss" SMART, or Systems for Measuring and Reporting Television, last week.
According to SRI, the letters indicate a company's
"confidence in the SRI/SMART business plan and their interest in proceeding to
contract discussions for establishing a new service."
SRI president Gale Metzger said he is in talks with
additional cable networks about coming on board for his ratings service. Companies that
have signed letters of intent, such as ESPN, have seen SMART's business plan and
found it to be acceptable, and they now just have to sit down and negotiate a contract for
the service, Metzger said.
Artie Bulgrin, ESPN's vice president of sales and
development, said he was encouraged by "the initiative that SMART has shown, and we
are happy to support its development."
He added, "As television develops and we approach the
digital age, we are always looking for new ways to more accurately measure
television-viewing audiences. Nielsen [Media Research] remains a valuable research
organization, and we support its efforts in this same area equally."
Last month, ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox -- as well as six ad
agencies -- signed similar letters of intent to support SMART's new ratings service.
SRI for several years now has been running a ratings lab in
sample homes in Philadelphia. Based on that research, it plans to create a TV-ratings
service to challenge Nielsen within two years.