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Madness Marched Out-Of-Home, Says Arbitron

If Arbitron's Portable People Meter test in Houston is any indication, the out-of-home TV viewing for NCAA's March Madness basketball finals is huge, and stations will want to get more buck for their board- banging.

According to an Arbitron study shared with TV Fax and prepared in advance of the annual TVB marketing conference in New York Thursday, between a third and a half of viewing to semifinal and final games of the NCAA basketball tournament by panel participants in Houston was out-of-home.

Portable People Meters pager-sized devices that people wear. They detect "ambient" media via codes embedded in the audio portion of the broadcast signal.

Some 33% of viewers six-plus watched Saturday NCAA tournament games away from home, according to the number-crunching. The six-plus rating for the Saturday games jumps by 48%--from a 2.8 to a 4.1--when out-of-home viewing is factored in. For the Sunday championship game, the jump is 43%, from a 3.5 to a 5.0.

Arbitron suggests that out-of-home viewing to other programming is high, too, but since

the ratings provided are for some of the biggest basketball games of the year, extrapolations beyond sports are problematic since big games lend themselves to out-of-home viewing in bars, and out-of-your-own-home viewing at parties and friends' houses.

But Arbitron can, and almost certainly will, run numbers on other types of programming.

That sports out-of-home audience may be even bigger. Since the PPM's track an audio code--it is used to measure radio, too--that out-of-home number may be even larger since some bars and restaurants turn down the sound or are loud enough to drown out the code.

According to results from the approximately 2,000 people participating in the PPM Houston test, 37% of viewing to the championship game by 18-34-year-olds was out of home, with a 1.2 rating versus a 1.8 in-home. That means that the in-home-only rating would have seriously underreported the audience for the Monday night final April 3 (March Madness actually spilled over into the first week of April).

The disparity was even greater among men 18-34, where as many people watched the games away from home as in them, with a 1.4 rating for each.

For the Saturday games on April 1, basketball fans were even more mobile, according to Arbitron, 64% of the 18-34 male viewing was out-of-home.

The PPM's, which can record TV, radio, stations streamed on the Internet, and even iPod and cell phone media with a little technological help, are being tested in Houston, with a planned live rollout in July. Philadelphia is targeted for the next tryout, possibly by year's end.