Arbitron confirms that the Media Rating Council denied accreditation of its PPM local ratings service in both New York and Philadelphia in January. What’s next? Owen Charlebois, President, Operations, Technology, and Research & Development told reporters Friday that Arbitron has begun work on re-audits in both markets and that there has been a significant improvement in sample performance since the previous audits were done months ago. “Not being granted accreditation, while disappointing, in no way is a disruption to the commercialization of PPM and to the planned restart.” Along with the re-audits of Philly and NYC, Arbitron is preparing to move ahead with initial audits of the other PPM markets scheduled to launch by the end of 2008: Los Angeles (and embedded Riverside-San Bernardino), Chicago, San Francisco (and embedded San Jose), Dallas-Ft. Worth, Washington DC, Detroit and Atlanta.
Houston remains the only PPM market accredited by MRC. It is the only market using address-based recruiting developed in the since abandoned radio-TV joint venture with Nielsen, while Philadelphia and New York were the first launched with telephone recruiting under Arbitron’s “Radio First” rollout plan for PPM.
In Friday’s monthly conference call updating PPM stats, Arbitron officials noted that PPM delivery is still above the 18-54 sample guarantee to broadcasters in all markets, although the company is still working to improve 18-34 sample performance. In the embedded Nassau-Suffolk market, 18-34 numbers were below the 70% benchmark in four of six audience groups for January, although that was better than missing on all six in December.
RBR/TVBR observation: The accreditation denials took place in January, but Arbitron didn’t disclose them until making an SEC filing late Thursday and then publicly discussing it on Friday. The company said that was because nothing was actually final until Thursday, after it notified MRC that it would not appeal the denials and instead focus on re-audits. We have searched the 10-K filing with the SEC for any confirmation that PPM failed a re-audit in Houston, but Arbitron succeeded in its appeal and PPM remains accredited in Houston. Reporters got no where with attempts to get any confirmation of that from Arbitron officials. The only news on that front is that the next re-audit in Houston won’t come until 2009. We have to wonder whether the super-secret proceedings of the MRC may sometimes conflict with the legal requirements under securities law for public companies to disclose material events. Strangely enough, though, Arbitron’s stock was up much of the session on Friday and ended down only slightly on a day when most stocks were down much more. Go figure.