Buyers comment on Nielsen-Cumulus deal


Cumulus Media and Clear Channel Radio have agreed to switch to Nielsen Media Research’s reborn-ratings service from Arbitron in 50 and 17 markets, respectively, beginning in Q3 2009 (see Radio News). We asked buyers a few questions about their interest in having this new option to buy off of:

Do you think this is a viable option in these 50 markets? If you have both options, which would you expect to buy off of and why?

Maja Mijatovic, Horizon Media VP/Director of National Radio: I think PPM is a better solution than diary based measurement, although Arbitron needs to fix its sampling. 
Matthew Warnecke, Partner, Network and Local Radio, MediaCom: Strictly speaking, this is less surveys in these markets than Arbitron is providing. It’s still a diary and not electronic measurement. Maybe the panelists/respondents are enlisted in a better way—that’s good. But I don’t know what impact it’s going to have and it’s going to take a year for the data to be considered stable—or at least currency. GroupM will undoubtedly have a corporate response to their feelings about the data itself.
Matt Feinberg, Matt Feinberg Media: “That’s a tough one. Most of the markets are mid-to small, so I suppose logistically Nielsen will have an easier time installing their diaries in-market which would allow them to get up and running a little faster. Since they have a proven method from their European work they should be able to execute with minimal problems.
It’s too early to say which company we would buy off. ARB is the standard and they have a history, so it will hard to just dismiss them. However, if Nielsen’s methodology is judged to be strong it could get interesting. One thing that’s always challenging, from an agency perspective, is dealing with too many data sources. It can be confusing to manage internally but we do it when necessary.
Another thing to keep in mind is that it’s going to be hard to dismiss electronic measurement, i.e. PPM and start supporting diaries again.
Even though ARB is keeping diaries in most of the markets Nielsen has singled out, I would assume Nielsen has plans to ultimately roll out into the top 25 if all goes well. And despite Nielsen’s history with diaries overseas, it could be seen as a throw back. I am interested in hearing the station group’s rationale. 
Rich Russo, JL Media’s SVP/Director of Broadcast Services: First of all these aren’t top markets and this is a yearly survey. Our position is at this point,  We are subscribers to Arbitron, and they are more frequent and have all of the markets. We’ll deal with this when and if this happens, but until something happens; all this is right now is another black mark on radio’s credibility and causing more confusion and bad press for the medium, the ongoing saga continues that radio can’t get anything right. Once again a PR disaster. Maybe this will divert attention from HD for a short time…

Will you subscribe? Would it depend upon MRC accreditation?

Maja Mijatovic, Horizon Media VP/Director of National Radio: As far as subscription, I still don’t know.  I would be willing to look at their numbers for sure and determine based on more detailed analysis.  They will also need to work with Act 1 software system (but I don’t see there should be a problem in that).
Matthew Warnecke, Partner, Network and Local Radio, MediaCom: I think it would need to be demonstrated to be superior, or similar and less expensive. I can’t speak for every agency across the country, but I would image most national spot departments spend their money in markets 100 and under, not 100 and over. Plus, the smaller the market, the greater the proportion of its budget comes from local spot—a drycleaner or a car dealer. Which often tend to be less worried about a measurement service.
Matt Feinberg, Matt Feinberg Media: There are too many variables to say whether we would subscribe or not, but MRC accreditation is important.

Is once a year measurement enough, vs. Arbitron’s two or four times per year?

Maja Mijatovic, Horizon Media VP/Director of National Radio: Measurement which takes place only once a year is unreliable.  What happens when stations flip formats, take off and/or add any programs, or what happens to the local sports team broadcast-appointment listening?  These changes on the station level cannot be taken into account with once a year measurement.
Here is the positive side. Arbitron needs competition to improve itself.  There are too many errors in radio measurement and we have seen changes from diary to PPM that we didn’t initially expect, therefore I don’t believe there is room for one measurement system only.  Small markets have different needs and if one company isn’t servicing them, then somebody needs to step in. 
Matt Feinberg, Matt Feinberg Media: It’s hard to digest annual measurement given most (all?) other broadcast media has multiple reporting periods. Again, we need to really hear Nielsen’s side of the story and examine it.

RBR/TVBR observation: Remember, Nielsen is a research company first. It will offer up a ton of consumer-centric data in these markets to supplement the radio ratings. Also, remember Nielsen is an expert in electronic measurement on the TV side (although they don’t offer electronic ratings of radio in any of their overseas markets). We assume this may be an inexpensive entrée (again) into the radio ratings biz, with electronic measurement offerings to come. But what will really make or break Nielsen here is customer service for its station clients.