Of this saga is – The Media Audit/Ipsos? February 12th, 02/12/07 RBR #29, our headline read: Radio groups to back TMA/Ipsos test. In a nutshell, Media Audit announced at RAB2007 that five radio companies – Clear Channel, Cox, Cumulus, Entercom and Radio One – had agreed to put up millions in cash for a test in Houston of the TMA/Ipsos in competition with Arbitron's PPM. TMA/Ipsos expects to have the first data released by October 2007 and plans to run the test through January 2008. Now the kicker to that announcement was – Once the Houston test results are known, TMA/Ipsos will be looking to the radio industry for a nod to go ahead and deploy, or to abandon the project.
Well, we haven't heard much noise since that announcement was made, with the exception that many groups are onboard with PPM. The Media Audit Exec. VP Phillip Beswick told RBR late Sunday that he had confirmed that Clear Channel has signed a contract for PPM, but he remains confident. "I am not privy to the terms and conditions but I can also confirm that Clear Channel is committed to forging ahead with The Media Audit/Ipsos Smart Cell Phone full market study. As I have said before, we understand that our core broadcast supporters, including Clear Channel, Radio One and Cox, have companies to run. Arbitron is forging ahead with PPM in many of their markets and it is in the best interest of these broadcasters to subscribe to the PPM data. We share the industry concern of the significant drop in radio listening that Arbitron has experienced with PPM. We have been working on our technology over the past 1.5 years and are highly confident in the strengths and advantages of the Smart Cell Phone as a data collection device. The Smart Cell Phone initiative is on target to produce ratings in a few of months."
Beswick sounds confident, but a lot is riding on keeping CCU onboard. Without CCU as the leader, the effort to fund TMA/Ipsos would likely fall apart.
SmartMedia observation: Time to stop and move forward. It is now an Arbitron electronic measurement game and we are skeptical of whether radio groups will continue putting any more cash into a project that may never see the light of day. It's not that just about everybody else in the radio biz wanting one and only one service- we'd love to see healthy, ongoing competition at the top of the ratings food chain. It's just that to date no entrant into that arena has managed to pull it off, or even come close. If The Media Audit thinks it is the exception that will prove the rule, more power to it, but it will be trying to counter a strong historical current that suggests a tough upstream battle. Media Audit is a solid research company and RBR's recommendation is be the best at what it does now and improve it for tomorrow – electronically.