Arbitron boosting CPO targets again


The big announcement from this week’s Arbitron Radio Advisory Council (RAC) meeting is that the ratings company is increasing its targets for including cell-phone-only households in survey samples by five percentage points. The goal by the end of 2010 is to have diary markets at an average 15% and PPM markets at an average 20%. Those are up from the current 10% for diary markets and 15% for PPM markets.

When one reporter asked why the PPM target is five percentage points higher than for diary markets, Arbitron CEO Michael Skarzynski explained that the goal is really to have the CPO portion of each sample reflect the CPO household percentage in that market. The national average is now 17-18%. Since PPM markets, the largest markets, generally have higher CPO penetration, the PPM target is higher than for diary markets. But both are national averages and Arbitron is actually setting CPO targets on a market-by-market basis. “The policy of the company is to match CPO sample target to the average target in a given market,” Skarzynski noted.

RAC Chair Lisa Decker, SVP/Market Manager for CBS Radio Seattle/Portland, said it was a “very productive meeting” this week and she was pleased by actions of Arbitron to raise the bar for sample quality in both PPM and diary markets.

RBR/TVBR asked Decker if she is satisfied with the sample sizes for PPM markets, which some broadcasters have charged are too small.

“We continue to push for sample increases. At the last summer meeting Arbitron did agree to a sample increase of 10%. We’re still working out the details of that, but we’re confident that we’ll be moving forward as the year progresses. So, no we’re not pleased with it. We’d like to see an increase and we do feel it would enhance both services, quite honestly,” Decker said.

“The company made a commitment in July of 2008 at the summer Radio Advisory Council to increase the PPM sample size and as Lisa noted, we continue to have some conversations and are in conversations with the Council on that topic. We’ll report back on that in the near term,” Skarzynski said.

As noted on Arbitron’s Q2 Wall Street conference call, Univision Radio is not only not buying the PPM service in Miami, San Diego and Phoenix, but has also refused to have its stations encode there. So RBR/TVBR asked Skarzynski whatever happened to the company’s plan to “fingerprint” the audio of non-encoding stations and match it to what PPM devices record in order to provide advertisers with data on the full universe of stations in a given market.

“We continue to work on that technology. We’ve not implemented that technology,” he replied.

Arbitron would prefer that all stations encode for PPM “The company policy, whether a particular broadcaster is a subscriber or not, a subscriber of the PPM service, Arbitron invites all broadcasters to encode,” Skarzynski said.

RBR/TVBR observation: We’ve heard some rumbling about Arbitron’s targets lagging behind the actual CPO penetration in many markets, so the explanation from CEO Michael Skarzynski was quite useful. The company is indeed trying to match actual CPO penetration in each market.