Statistical Research Inc.'s search for strategic
partners and investors in its proposed System for Measuring and Reporting Television
national rollout is continuing, with its executives stating that its Philadelphia ratings
laboratory will continue operating indefinitely.
Although SRI president Gale Metzger had said in November
that funding for that lab would run out at the end of 1998, George Hooper, SRI's
director of administration and senior associate, said earlier this month that no official
shutdown was planned. Rumors to that effect came from other parties, he added.
Hooper, who described the pursuit of partners and investors
as "ongoing," said none of the broadcast-television or cable networks had
converted their letters of intent into firm contractual commitments to SMART.
There had been initial reports in November that SRI had set
a Jan. 1 deadline for such conversions, but SRI president Gale Metzger maintained that he
had not called for any such ultimatum.
In any case, SRI will need at least two years to mount a
full-scale national rollout of the SMART ratings service, Hooper said. If the commitments
had been in place Jan. 1, SMART would have targeted a fall-season rollout. Delays probably
will mean pushing that back somewhat, he said, adding that the costly effort will require
buying the necessary equipment, putting it in the field and recruiting the personnel.
Cable and advertising sources have speculated that SRI will
have to pour more than $100 million into the SMART national launch -- a jump from the
lab's 300-household sample to a nationwide 5,000-home sample -- followed by an
estimated $80 million per year to keep it running.