That's the view from CL King analyst Jim Boyle, now that long-time critic Bob Neil at Cox Radio has signed a contract with Arbitron for PPM (5/24/07 RBR #102).
"It appears in our view that the long struggle between Arbitron, the near-monopolist in radio audience research with its new, higher-priced electronic measurement, and the radio station groups is 'game over.' With most of the influential radio groups signed up, including the two largest, it seems effectively over," Boyle said in a research note. Boyle's PPM scorecard shows that groups with roughly 44% of radio revenues in the top 50 markets have signed group contracts with Arbitron for PPM measurement. The "core PPM holdouts" are Clear Channel (although it has signed a single market contract for Philadelphia), Entercom and Cumulus, who account for a combined 43%. Listed separately by Boyle is Radio One, which is encoding but has not yet signed a PPM contract. "We do not know which way Citadel is leaning," he added, but he suspects it will sign up for PPM when the first markets come on line for the ABC Radio stations it is acquiring from Disney.
Boyle, who maintains his "accumulate" rating on Arbitron's stock, admits he was as surprised as everyone else by the Cox signing. "CEO Bob Neil is widely respected and noted for his feisty, harsh criticisms of the PPM methodology since he is a veteran with rare programming background. We were not expecting this and neither were the Street and the Radio industry should be shocked as this will be viewed as a huge win for PPM by CXR's peers," Boyle told clients.