Arbitron to delay PPM rollout


Rollout delay PPM rollout in NYC, LA, Chicago, San Francisco and Dallas.  Looks like all the PPM recent numbers issues raised by Cox Radio, Beasley and others has forced Arbitron’s hand, as the company announced yesterday it will delay the commercialization of its PPM radio ratings service in nine markets. New York, Nassau-Suffolk and Middlesex-Somerset-Union will be delayed by nine months; Los Angeles, Riverside and Chicago by six months; and San Francisco, San Jose and Dallas by three months. In these nine markets, the company will keep the diaries. During the delay, Arbitron will continue to work with customers, the Media Rating Council (MRC), other industry organizations and community groups on the research and sample size issues that have been plaguing the Houston and Philly rollouts. Arbitron intends to introduce the Portable People Meter service in Atlanta, Detroit, DC and in subsequent markets, as originally scheduled.

"We remain confident in the audience estimates that the Portable People Meter service is producing. However, over the past three weeks, feedback from our customers, the Media Rating Council and other constituencies has led us to conclude that the radio industry would be better served if we were to delay further commercialization of the PPM in order to address their issues," said Steve Morris, Arbitron CEO. "We already have a number of initiatives in the pipeline for implementation in the first quarter of 2008 that we believe will improve the performance of our PPM samples. Our intention is to expand significantly this list of improvement initiatives by working closely with customers, industry organizations and community groups…We also plan to use the additional time to work closely with community leaders to review the workings of the Portable People Meter service and to gather their insights as to how we might improve compliance among persons 18-34, including ethnic young adults, across the diverse communities of New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and subsequent markets."

Steve Sinicropi, VP/GM Cox Radio Greenville/Chairman of the Arbitron Radio Advisory Council, and among the most outspoken regarding problems with PPM, tells RBR he was pleased with the move and anticipates details will be hashed out at Arbitron Radio Advisory Council meetings: "Arbitron’s decision to delay the commercialization of PPM in New York is a response to customer concerns about sample size, performance and compliance.  Electronic measurement will be good for radio, but getting it right is more important than getting it now. Getting it right will provide confidence in the currency. The Advisory Council is looking forward to our meetings next week to learn more about Arbitron’s performance initiatives and what quality benchmarks will be needed prior to commercializing a PPM market."

RBR/TVBR observation: Perhaps the problems between Arbitron and the New York City Council about the independent panel reviewing the rollout of PPM was the last straw-there may not have been time as PPM was set to go live there 12/31. Ironically, the decision does not impact PPM ratings currently in Houston and Philadelphia. Also have to note from last week when Bob Neil stated the train, meaning PPM, had left the station. But RBR cautioned it was time to slow the train down before it had a bad experience. Seems now the train has come to a complete stop and it is now best to make sure all parts are in working order–especially the brakes before the train leaves the station, again. Also, this morning Arbitron has scheduled a conference call and RBR will be there and report the findings. (For Aribtron’s financial guidance see Wall Street Business Report below)