Terrestrial Broadcasters Wary of Expanded Ratings Service

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NEW YORK ( -- Terrestrial broadcasters insist they’re not nervous about satellite radio’s 7 million subscribers, but they’ve successfully stalled Arbitron’s plan to add satellite and online radio listening to its diary measurement system.

Arbitron was originally scheduled to instruct its diary keepers to record their satellite and online radio listening in the fall 2005 book. Instead, Arbitron now plans a 25-market test of the process in February and will delay full implementation until summer 2006, at the earliest.

Arbitron said the change is a response to the concerns of the National Association of Broadcasters’ Local Radio Audience Measurement Committee and the Arbitron Radio Advisory Council.

“While we believe that modifying the instructions is the right thing to do from a research quality standpoint, Arbitron has decided to address more fully our customers’ concerns with a limited test of the revised instructions in 25 markets in February 2006,” said Owen Charlebois, president of Arbitron’s U.S. Media Services, in a statement.

The impetus for measuring the other forms of radio is an increasingly popular view that consumers have expanded their definition of radio to include all forms -- terrestrial stations, satellite services, online radio broadcasts and even Music Choice audio options available through cable TV.

All the same to listeners
“In 1995 there was one form of radio in America—traditional AM and FM,” said Eric Ronning, managing partner of Ronning Lipset Radio, a firm that sells advertising on a network of online radio services. “Today the same 250 million Americans consider radio to be a derivative of four different things, and the only people who consider those separate entities are the owners because they need to, and advertisers because that’s how they think. To the customer, it’s radio, radio, radio: Which one do I like best depending on the circumstances and time of day?”

Online radio services are already measured monthly and passively by Arbitron through a partnership with comScore. XM Satellite Radio commissions a biannual audience study from Arbitron. Sirius has not been measured by Arbitron.

Radio broadcasters have been wary of the effect audience-measurement changes could have on their ratings and bottom line. Arbitron is in the process of implementing a new electronic measurement system, having wrapped its latest PPM trial in Houston. Buyers and advertisers are eager to see the initiative advance.

When asked about the impact of delaying plans to ask diary keepers to record their satellite and online radio listening habits, Kathy Crawford, president-local broadcast for MindShare, said: “Let’s put the focus on the fact that in today’s day and age we’re still talking about a diary for radio measurement.”

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