WESTWOOD SKIPS SRI'S RATINGS TO SELL NETWORKS

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Westwood One Radio Networks has ruffled industry feathers as it attempts to sell its programs by bypassing Statistical Research Inc.'s RADAR, the accepted ratings service.

The move comes at a delicate time. RADAR is trying to keep its clients as new contracts are due this summer, and other radio networks are negotiating improvements at the service and at an optional competitive service from Arbitron Co.

Three years ago, the last time RADAR contracts were up, Arbitron announced it would launch a competitive service, though ultimately it didn't materialize as support for RADAR remained strong.

ARBITRON STILL TALKING

"We're still in conversations with networks about what we can offer them off our existing service," said a spokesman for Arbitron, which has not made any statements recently about a new service.

Westwood's efforts were met with rejections by major ad agencies-which embrace RADAR reports-and irritation from other major networks, which were concerned about the confusion it would cause in the $426 million network radio industry.

"What's good for network radio is to have a common front to advertisers," said David Kantor, exec VP, ABC Radio Networks. "If we don't, it hurts the industry."

AGENCIES SUPPORT RADAR

While support for RADAR continues on the agency side, networks themselves seem to want more frequent reporting-more than biannual numbers. In the wake of relaxed station ownership restrictions by the government, changes in affiliate lineups-and their RADAR showings-are likely to be more frequent.

Westwood is a sibling of vigorously expanding-and now second-ranked-Infinity Broadcasting Co. Both are run by Mel Karmazin, who recently has gone on a buying spree, adding a number of stations to the group.

WESTWOOD RESULTS

In RADAR 52, published March 4, Westwood formats Source dropped 22.6%; Country 16.9%; Young Adults 8.8%; Variety 8.6%; Adult Contemporary 7.2%; and CNN+ dropped 5.2% for adults 12-plus.

Network radio audiences were down overall 3.1%.

Radio ad buyers said Westwood attempted to sell its formats using numbers from Arbitron's national report published last summer, instead of asking for a retabulation from RADAR, as the networks usually do.

THE ANSWER: `NO'

"I told them no," said Maureen White, VP-radio at McCann-Erickson Worldwide. "They said RADAR 52 didn't most accurately reflect their current situation. Besides, the Arbitron info is eight months old, why would I do that?"

Westwood's only comment about its use of Arbitron data was a statement from President Jeff Lawenda: "We use all reliable and credible research at our disposal to efficiently sell our networks."

More revealing was Mr. Lawenda's early-March statement explaining Westwood's weak results: "The book reflects listenership as far back as October '94. There has yet to be a RADAR that reflects our recent and ongoing performance resulting from the major changes we instituted over six months ago in our affiliate relations department."

"When their numbers were high, they weren't saying RADAR was out of date," said Sherri Roth, VP-director of network radio at D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, New York.

"Their contention was that RADAR can't keep up with all the changes" of station ownership, she said.

DISCUSSING CHANGES

RADAR is discussing changes including greater frequency.

"We are in constant communication with our clients," said Gale Metzger, president of RADAR. "The marketplace benefits from these kinds of discussions. We would get in trouble if we put our head in the sand."

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