Arbitron looking to multi-platform future


Despite efforts to diversify, Arbitron still derives nearly all of its revenues from radio ratings. But that’s expected to change at some point, which is why Arbitron is talking with folks like Pandora, Slacker, Spotify and various TV groups about the development of products to measure audiences across all sorts of media platforms.

Asked specifically about Pandora, Slacker and Spotify in Thursday’s quarterly conference call, Arbitron Executive Vice President, U.S. Media Services Sean Creamer refused to name names, but he did say that as the company evaluates what its product to measure online listening should look like, it only makes sense that the company would be talking to the pure-play online radio companies.

“So as we’re engaged in conversations, it is a full list of potential customers that we’re engaging with,” Creamer said. That no doubt includes radio broadcasters, who want to measure not only the online streams of their AM and FM stations, but their own online-only streams as well.

As Arbitron works to bring in revenues beyond its core radio business, Creamer disclosed in the call that the company is developing a cross-platform measurement test for a major client using its Portable People Meter (PPM) panel. “As further endorsement of our capabilities and approach to cross-platform, we recently signed a lead broadcaster to a cross-platform study of audience to its radio and television outlets in a top-10 market,” he said, while refusing to name the client.

One analyst wanted to know how all this differed from Project Apollo, which Arbitron and then-partner Nielsen shelved in 2008. The answer was that Apollo was terminated because the research costs at the time were too high for the potential customers. Now that PPM is fully deployed, the cost for adding cross-platform measurement is less. Also, interest in buying cross-platform data has increased since 2008.

As it stands, though, Arbitron still derives about 85% of its revenues from its radio clients and nearly all of the remaining 15% from ad agencies buying radio data. Revenues from non-radio sources are still non-material for reporting purposes by the public company.

RBR-TVBR observation: Given the tiny number of companies which own both radio and TV stations in a top 10 market, the obvious first guess for the cross-platform test is CBS. Disney’s ESPN has engaged Arbitron for some past custom research, but it is hard to see it as the client in this case, since the ESPN Radio and Radio Disney stations are part of Disney’s cable division, rather than the broadcast division which has the ABC O&O TV stations group.