On March 2 RBR + TVBR reported that, according to noted radio programming consultant Randy Kabrich, two Nielsen Audio panelists in the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater market singlehandedly helped the audio stream for Beasley Media Group‘s Tropical WYUU-FM “Maxima 92.5” finish at No. 1 among Persons 18-34 in the January 2017 weekly PPM ratings.
On Monday (3/13), it became known that the two panelists, representing one household, have been removed as Nielsen Audio participants.
The news came from Beasley — in an announcement that affirmed its non-involvement in the matter.
“Our company and other broadcasters play no role in selecting panelists and households for inclusion in PPM data gathering,” said Beasley Media Group COO Brian Beasley. “In the case of the Tampa household that was removed from the PPM panel, it was Nielsen that chose to have two different users in that household be PPM participants. Most notably, we do not and have never had any relationship or contact with the household or users removed from Nielsen’s Tampa panel of PPM holders.”
Beasley did note, however, that the removal of the heavy streamers of Maxima 92.5 “adversely impacts ratings” for the Spanish-language station.
As noted by Kabrich in a blog post appearing March 2, a Hispanic Female aged 18-24 with a 32-hour Time Spent Listening (TSL) log and a Hispanic Male 25-34 with a 20-hour TSL log are the catalysts for the unprecedented ratings results.
This came with Cume of roughly 10,000, Kabrich states.
Kabrich theorized that a smart home device such as an Amazon Echo contributed to the abnormally high audio streaming — something that has sparked a series of discussions about how Alexa could impact PPM-based audio measurement.
Following the release by Beasley of its statement, which made the removal of the two PPM panelists in Tampa publicly known, Nielsen issued a statement suggesting the household didn’t get enough guidance on how to wear the meter.
“In early February, we identified a household in Tampa whose meter wearing compliance warranted additional coaching,” a Nielsen spokesperson said. “Per our standard operating procedure, we conducted an on-site visit of the household and provided subsequent training to ensure proper usage of the PPM device. Following the training visit, the household’s meter wearing compliance behavior did not change and per our quality assurance procedures, we removed the home effective with the start of the March survey.”
Originally, Nielsen defended the integrity of its PPM panel. In a statement received March 2, a Nielsen spokesperson told RBR + TVBR, “Nielsen has a series of rigorous compliance controls designed to ensure that PPM panelists meet eligibility criteria and their credited listening is valid. The panelists that contributed listening to WYUU-IF (WYUU-FM’s Internet Stream) in January met our compliance standards. We take the accuracy of our data seriously and will monitor the situation closely.”
However, according to data obtained by RBR + TVBR, the two panelists’ audio streaming of WYUU continued to present issues with Nielsen Audio subscribers in Tampa, with data for February 2017 Week 2 continuing to reflect extremely high levels of audio exposure. For the week, the audio stream ranked as the No. 3 station in the market among Persons 12+ from 7pm-midnight, Monday-Friday. It was also No. 1 in the market among Persons 18-34 in every daypart — including weekends, where the stream surged from a tie for 16th place.
Tampa is one of the 26 PPM markets that are accredited by the Media Rating Council.
RBR + TVBR OBSERVATION: ¿Hola, Alexa? Hay un arroz con mango en la bahia de Tampa? Loosely translated from Caribbean slang, that means, “What the heck is going on in Tampa Bay?” Clearly, two individuals highly impacted the Nielsen Audio PPM ratings for an MRC-accredited market. But, is the issue the panelists, or the sample size? In discussions with persons close to the matter, RBR + TVBR hears that the use of a smart home device to call up “Maxima” and keep it on for hours and hours is likely the culprit here. It’s a strange situation, but plausible. Why? Latinos are first-adopters of new technology and are more likely than non-Latinos to have a smart home device such as an Amazon Echo. Additionally, Latinos lead in TSL. In a market where Maxima is the dominant Hispanic-targeted radio station, we share a very real possibility: This young couple has decided to engage in a home construction project, and the team of workers comes at 7:30 a.m. on a Saturday and Sunday and works until 8 p.m., as Maxima plays on a bluetooth speaker and one of the two homeowners is close by — with the PPM monitoring all of that heavy consumption. We suggest this as a possibility because, years ago, our Editor-In-Chief reported in R&R about Los Angeles-based regional Mexican stations missing out on having exposure to their stations detected by PPMs that were removed and put in a “safe bag” for the day by a construction worker who spent hours listening to a station while in tight crawl spaces; the PPM went dormant due to lack of movement, despite hours tuned to the radio. Rather than under-reporting, we now have overexposure — despite the fact that Nielsen Audio says these two panelists met their compliance standards. If that’s the case, why then would Nielsen drop them? Wouldn’t it make more sense to increase the sample size, so such activity would be counter-balanced with additional listening? Of course, there was a problem after it found the panelists met their compliance standards — something regarding how to wear the meter. Pressure from iHeartMedia and Cox Radio — Beasley’s in-market competitors — could have also led Nielsen to make the move. Whatever the case, this is clearly a situation where two individuals’ efforts highly impacted a market’s ratings — a market where one Bubba The Love Sponge is embroiled in a $1 million ratings distortion lawsuit against Nielsen Audio. Discussion will certainly continue on this topic — possibly at the 2017 Hispanic Radio Conference in Fort Lauderdale, set for March 28-29. As Latinos are among radio’s most loyal listeners, we hope that Nielsen Audio has replaced these two big audio streamers smartly while also considering future situations that could involve an Alexa-driven device. Come the next Holiday ratings period, what would happen if a Country station or all-Christmas station saw its audio stream explode in TSL and Cume? One only hopes the industry is prepared to answer this question.