Arbitron CEO still hopes for PPM resolution


Despite hauling Spanish Broadcasting System (SBS) into court over Portable People Meter (PPM) encoding, new Arbitron CEO Bill Kerr is still hoping to come to terms with the PPM coalition.

In his quarterly conference call with Wall Street analysts, Kerr said he would not go into specifics about the company’s talks with the Coalition and Congress about PPM. “But I will tell you that our conversations continue and that Arbitron’s goal is a responsible solution that address the concerns we have heard both privately and publicly,” he said.

Then Kerr added a brief comment on the dispute with SBS. “On Tuesday of this week Arbitron and SBS went before the Supreme Court of the State of New York. The hearing addressed the temporary restraining order issued by the court on February 11th requiring SBS to resume encoding the signals of nine stations in five markets under the terms of its PPM encoding contract. The court heard arguments from both sides. The temporary restraining order remains in place and SBS is again encoding,” Kerr said.

Kerr, in his first quarterly conference call as CEO, had noted earlier that Arbitron remains committed to winning Media Rating Council (MRC) accreditation for PPM in all markets. To date, though, only three of the 33 markets which have been commercialized have the MRC double-checks on their reports, with Minneapolis-St. Paul added in January to Houston and Riverside-San  Bernardino. That was announced the same day that Arbitron’s board announced that Kerr was taking over as Michael Skarzynski was forced to resign.

Of the 20 markets where MRC accreditation was either denied (18) or the process ended without action (2), Kerr told analysts that new audits are undeerway in Q1 in 12 of those markets, with re-audits of the others to begin in Q2. “We believe that audits undertaken in 2010 will reveal that we have made steady progress on sample quality, thanks to our commitment to continuous improvement, which of course is an essential element for earning MRC accreditation,” Kedrr said.

RBR-TVBR observation: The problem now is that it will take many more months before the MRC acts on the re-audits of the markets where PPM was denied accreditation, including the biggies of New York, LA and Chicago. Meanwhile, Arbitron still has to face critics at the PPM Coalition, in Congress and in the offices of at least four state attorneys general who contend that the lack of MRC accreditation is evidence that PPM is, indeed, flawed.