Hollander believes waiting for full accreditation is a mistake.

CBS Radio’s CEO Joel Hollander wants the portable people meter (PPM) out in the marketplace as fast as possible—and he thinks waiting for the new service to get full accreditation is a mistake.

The status of Arbitron’s PPM service promises once again to be the major topic of discussion at the ratings firm’s radio advisory council meeting today through Friday in Colorado Springs. But unlike the previous meeting, when broadcasters pressured Arbitron to wait until it achieved Media Rating Council accreditation in Houston before going live with the PPM service, this week’s meeting could find some broadcasters urging Arbitron to go ahead with the balance of its rollout schedule even without the double checkmarks of full accreditation.

Arbitron’s original schedule called for the company to roll out the PPM service to the top 50 markets beginning with Houston in July. But, in June, when the MRC passed on the opportunity to accredit the PPM, requesting more analyses, Arbitron was forced to delay the launch of Houston.

Since the March council meeting, the urgency for electronic measurement has grown. Nine radio groups have signed for the PPM, seven since March, including CBS Radio, the nation’s second largest radio broadcaster.

“Between CBS, Beasley Broadcast Group, Greater Media, and WBEB-FM, there are enough in Philadelphia to move ahead right away,” said Hollander, who has been urging the industry to move quickly to adopt PPM. “Enough already. The PPM isn’t perfect, but we need to get going. The ad agencies have been vociferous and so will we.”

The second market on Arbitron’s PPM rollout schedule after Houston, Philadelphia could wind up being the first PPM market if the Media Rating Council fails to accredit Houston at its August meeting. Steve Morris, president and CEO for Arbitron, indicated during its recent earnings call that the company would be willing to launch in other markets with an MRC audit, but not accreditation, especially if it had a critical mass of clients signed. In Philadelphia, scheduled to go live Jan. 2007, Arbitron has signed broadcasters representing 64 percent of the market revenue.

One group likely to oppose that scenario is Clear Channel. The nation’s largest radio group pulled the plug on its negotiations with Arbitron when the MRC failed to grant PPM accreditation in June and kicked groups that signed for the PPM off its electronic measurement evaluation committee. Those booted included CBS.

“I hope Clear Channel signs on the dotted line soon so we can put this behind us,” Hollander said. “The ad agencies want them to sign on. This is something that should be done now so we don’t have to deal with it in 2007.”

In a soft ad market, radio may not be able to afford to wait. “I don’t think PPM is the reason the market is slow, but you don’t want it to become the reason,” said Hollander. “With PPM, I think we would be able to monetize Opie & Anthony and other changes in our stations a lot quicker,” he added.

Because the PPM can report daily or weekly audiences, CBS also could monetize single-day or weekly boosts in ratings due to specific events. For example, in an analysis of PPM ratings in Houston, the audience for KILT-AM, CBS’ sports station in the market for the NFL draft, jumped from 12,600 to 45,000.

“The change from diary to PPM will impact everything from selling cycles to ratings to the ability to monetize special features, “ said John Snyder, VP of PPM sales for Arbitron, which released its play-by-play analysis Tuesday. “In all likelihood, the ‘emotional’ sell of sports will be replaced with a more ‘fact-based’ sell, and this ‘estimate driven’ world should bring new advertisers to play-by-play who hadn’t considered it before.”

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