Univision Radio confirms talks to subscribe to Arbitron


Univision’s refusal to subscribe to Portable People Meter (PPM) ratings data, except in Houston, has been holding down revenues for Arbitron, as noted in the ratings company’s quarterly conference call. In his own call with Wall Street analysts, Univision CEO Joe Uva confirmed that his company is talking with Arbitron, but he’s in no hurry to actually use the PPM data until changes being implemented bring it up to Univision’s standards.

“We’re pleased that the coalition of minority broadcasters reached an agreement with Arbitron regarding of improved sampling of Hispanics and African Americans,” Uva said of the deal Arbitron reached in April with the PPM Coalition, of which Univision Radio is a member. “We look forward to concluding a new agreement between Univision and Arbitron so that we may begin obtaining PPM data to monitor Arbitron’s progress in delivering reliable ratings, which are so vitally important to stakeholders in the radio marketplace,” he added.

Later, in the Q&A section of the call, Uva told an analyst that the methodology improvements that Arbitron has committed to will be implemented over a one and a half to two year period “to get all of those markets corrected.” So it doesn’t sound like Univision Radio is in any rush to start using PPM data for selling spots.

“Following that [PPM Coalition] agreement we’ve entered into discussions directly with Arbitron on a new commercial relationship between our companies for PPM. We fully expect that we will come to a new deal with them that will provide us with getting PPM data so that we can monitor their progress. And our plan would be as the markets come on line and improve to start using that data for sales purposes,” Uva explained.

Univision Radio has complained for years that its audience market share is undervalued by advertisers, so an analyst wanted to know if that gap will be closed by selling with the improved PPM ratings. The company reported that Q2 radio revenues were down 5.5% to $89.9 million.

“Currently we sell without ratings in most of the markets,” CFO Andy Hobson noted in that further discussion about the impact of PPM on Univision Radio.  “First I think we need to come to an agreement with Arbitron on the timing and the process which they’re going to go through to improve their samples. Once we have that we can actually subscribe and then as the samples improve our ratings should be improving and then we should be tracking more similarly to the overall radio market.”

RBR-TVBR observation: Selling over $150 million in radio advertising in the first half of 2010 virtually without ratings data (except for PPM in Houston and a small number of diary markets) is pretty impressive. It also means that Univision Radio sales staffers have sharpened their sales skills by not having numbers to lean on as they pitch the actual product. This will be an interesting case study once the company starts using PPM data for selling its radio advertising.