Clear Channel renews Arbitron in some, but not all, markets


Arbitron’s largest customer has finally signed a diary ratings contract renewal. However, Clear Channel Radio only signed a partial renewal and will be going ratings-free in seven markets. And its announcement focused primarily on its commitment to Nielsen’s new US radio ratings service.

Tough negotiations that had threatened to break down in recent days finally produced a new contract to replace the main Clear Channel diary contract with Arbitron, which had expired December 31st. Some Clear Channel markets had been temporarily unable to use any ratings data since the superseding book had come out.

For seven Clear Channel markets, there will be no radio ratings to use at all for the foreseeable future. They are not included in the Arbitron contract renewal and are also not among the markets getting Nielsen ratings this year. So, Clear Channel will be ratings-free in Grand Forks, ND; Sioux City, IA; Sarasota, FL; Jackson, MS; Lima, OH; Parkersburg, WV and Williamsport, PA.

Meanwhile, Nielsen is growing its list of US radio markets to 52, adding Newburgh-Middletown, NY with Clear Channel subscribing for an 18th market. Newburgh-Middletown is market #139.

“Clear Channel Radio remains fully committed to Nielsen in the 18 markets in which we are currently working with them. In addition, based on the outstanding data gained from the first pilot market, we remain interested in expanding our relationship to include additional markets. We will be adding one additional market immediately. The professionalism, commitment to accuracy, and customer support we’ve received from Nielsen is matched only by their research quality and ability to deliver an accurate measure of true radio listening. We look forward to a long and mutually productive relationship with them,” Clear Channel said in its announcement that emphasized the Nielsen commitment and downplayed the new three-year diary contract with Arbitron. Clear Channel has a separate contract with Arbitron for ratings in Portable People Meter (PPM) markets.
“Under the new Arbitron agreement, Clear Channel Radio will neither use nor pay for Arbitron ratings in some 24 markets. Seventeen of those are currently covered by the company’s relationship with Nielsen and the remaining seven will move forward without ratings data. Clear Channel Radio’s previous contract with Arbitron expired at the end of 2008,” the announcement released late Monday stated.

RBR/TVBR observation: It will be a while before we find out whether Clear Channel is playing “chicken” with Arbitron, or whether it will move a substantial amount of its ratings business to Nielsen. Of course, Nielsen has yet to release the first book for its “sticker diary” service. The coming few years will be interesting.