Nielsen Supports Television. Arbitron Pays Itself Millions

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Why is Nielsen so active in showing the continued relevance of television, while Arbitron pockets millions and does nothing to show the continued relevance of radio?


We’ve asked the question before, for example here and here, but a new Nielsen report again draws attention to the contrast between Nielsen and Arbitron. Nielsen has been studying the impact of the Internet on television for some time now. They’ve found that despite increased use of the Internet, television viewing has actually increased.

As reported in MediaPost:

Nielsen says nearly 60% of TV viewers now use the Internet once a month while also watching TV — up 3% from a year before. The survey also notes that the number of people who are multitasking grew almost 5% from the year before to 134 million.

This is Nielsen’s seventh Three Screen report (television/computer/mobile). You can read the report PDF here.

The new-media pundits always view media consumption as a zero sum game. If use of the Internet has increased, then consumption of traditional media must have declined. Yet this study as the ones before show that the Internet is increasing media consumption, not cannibalizing traditional media:

Matt O’Grady, media product leader for The Nielsen Company, says from the report: “The initial fear was that Internet and mobile video and entertainment would slowly cannibalize traditional TV viewing, but the steady trend of increased TV viewership alongside expanded simultaneous usage argues something quite different.”

So is Arbitron studying the relationship between radio and new media consumption? Has it produced any similar study supporting radio? No, it just buys a few banner ads in Inside Radio to say it cares.

Arbitron makes nearly all its revenue from radio. Net income for the company in 2009 was $42.2 million, a 13% increase over 2008. Arbitron just declared a quarterly 10 cent dividend, paying out $10.6 million a year to its stockholders, many of whom are the executives of Arbitron. That money came from radio stations.

Arbitron, how about giving back some of the money by emulating Nielsen and studying radio listener multi-tasking?

–Glenda Shrader Bos & Richard Harker, Harker Research


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Carl has been with RBR-TVBR since 1997 and is currently Managing Director/Senior Editor. Residing in Northern Virginia, he covers the business of broadcasting, advertising, programming, new media and engineering. He’s also done a great deal of interviews for the company and handles our ever-growing stable of bylined columnists.