Nielsen dumps US radio measurement


After two years of trying to compete in the US radio marketplace with its “sticker diary” service, The Nielsen Company is pulling the plug. There will be no Nielsen radio ratings in the US in 2011.

The company released this brief statement Monday (12/13) afternoon:

“The Nielsen Company has decided to end its measurement of radio in the United States, as of the Fall 2010 period.  Back data and limited access to Radio Advisor software will continue to be available for use by Nielsen clients, as required.  This decision has no impact on The Nielsen Company’s international radio measurement, and we will continue our radio measurement operations in each of the 11 countries we currently serve.”

Cumulus Media had recruited Nielsen to enter the US market as the group owner dropped Arbitron in its markets outside the top 100. For the two years that it measured US radio in 2009 and 2010 Cumulus was far and away the biggest customer, subscribing in 51 markets. All had Spring books and two larger ones had Spring and Fall books.

Clear Channel Radio also subscribed for the 11 markets where it was a competitor to Cumulus, but no additional markets were ever added. Just last week

Otherwise, Nielsen had attracted only a handful of other radio clients in those 51 markets. Sunrise Broadcasting of New York, with three stations in the Newburgh-Middletown market, was the last to sign up in March 2010. It joined Maverick Media and Black Crow as single-market subscribers. ESPN Radio, which owns no stations in those 51 markets, but does have affiliates, had also subscribed to the data. Otherwise, a number of ad agencies had also subscribed.

With Nielsen no longer providing radio ratings for his smaller markets, Cumulus Media CEO Lew Dickey is being non-committal about whether he’ll return to Arbitron’s local diary service in those markets. “Audience research is a significant investment that should drive healthy returns for our shareholders. After careful review, we plan to re-allocate these resources to better serve our sales organization and our clients and this may or may not include syndicated audience research,” he told RBR-TVBR.

We asked him why he thought Nielsen was pulling out. “It was a great product, but they are a very large company and their strategic priorities have evolved,” Dickey replied.

RBR-TVBR also got a comment from Clear Channel, which sort of sums up the challenge that Nielsen was facing: “Clear Channel Radio recently announced a long term renewal of its research arrangements with Arbitron that addresses our comprehensive research needs.”  That six-year deal was announced just last week.

Nielsen officials declined to make any comment on why the company decided to end its US radio ratings service.

RBR-TVBR observation: Get big or get out. Nielsen’s bread and butter is its US television ratings business. The US radio ratings business was so tiny that it was never mentioned once in any of Nielsen’s quarterly conference calls with Wall Street analysts. Not once. For a company the size of Nielsen, it made no sense to do only 51 markets. It looks like someone at HQ made the call that competing head-to-head with Arbitron was not going to be worth the investment – and pulled the plug.