Fireworks On The Monthly Arb Con Call
May 22, 2008 at 10:37 AM (PT)
ARBITRON kicked off its monthly PPM call with a heavy hitter who took a major shot at other radio groups that are demanding MRC accreditation before rolling out PPM. CBS RADIO Pres./CEO DAN MASON opened the session by citing the PR campaign institute by COX and INNER CITY BROADCASTING that demanded MRC accountability for the PPM.
"MRC accreditation is not currency," he stated. "A currency is the consensus between buyer and seller that establishes itself. MRC accreditation is great, like a GOOD HOUSEKEEPING seal. We at CBS want better measurement like electronic measurement because it is the future."
Media Audit has no accreditation, and I know at least one radio company, that has been very much against PPM, uses Media Audit every day in the market.
He then brought up the histories of other ratings services. "It took SCARBOROUGH 10 years for MRC accreditation, yet it was used [before it officially received it]. MEDIA AUDIT, a product that CBS RADIO uses, has no accreditation. and I know at least one radio company, which has been very much against PPM, uses MEDIA AUDIT every day in the market. NEILSEN C3 ratings have been used in upfront for two years -- which is being used for buying and selling -- and it has no accreditation." MASON notes
Satellite Radio A "Flop"
When ARBITRON Pres./Sales & Marketing PIERRE BOUVARD asked MASON about what PPM data reflects on satellite radio, he brought up a satcaster quarterly conference call that cited $35 million of advertising revenue, which compares to the revenue generated by "one decent radio station in NEW YORK CITY," which make it, as an ad-based network, "pretty much of a flop ... Before satellite radio takes down radio, it has to beat one station in NEW YORK."
MASON took a question from RANDY KABRICH, who brought up 2007 MILLER KAPLAN data regarding revenue in PPM markets. KABRICH asked MASON if CBS RADIO "suppressed" the release of that data -- which is rumored to show dramatic decreases in the PHILADELPHIA stations' revenue. MASON denied knowledge of any such action and offered to respond to KABRICH's concerns after the conference call.
Continued Progress On Benchmarks
Following MASON's appearance, ARBITRON presented its powerpoint for APRIL, which showed continued progress in meeting all of its prescribed benchmarks. IN fact missed benchmarks were very few and far between. The problem areas were basically the same -- Hispanics target demos in NASSAU and MIDDLESEX, Black women 18-34 in PHILADELPHIA and LOS ANGELES -- but in the latter case, they were very close to meeting to the benchmarks. More sports events data was shown to illustrate the hour-to hour detailed efficiency of PPM.
"We're not happy just by meeting benchmarks," BOUVARD said. "We now have significant policies and procedures in place that lets us control demos to a greater degree. So while 70 is our bench for Year 1 and 80 our benchmark for Year 2, our ultimate goal is 100, We want to get there, and when our new processes come on, we want to use them to drive the age cells to 100, which is our goal for 18-34."
A second Q&A period followed, which brought up the viability of AQH when not all stations in the market have been encoded, SVP/PPM Marketing JAY GUYTHER noted that "the stations missing collectively add up to five share points, but individually tend to have .1s or .2s." In other words, the AQH data the PPM now offers is inflated by about 5%.
"The PPM world very compressed," BOUVARD added. "You could see a station getting identical quarter hours, but dropping a couple of ranks, which is another area to look at. Be careful about ratings bonuses that are ranked-based, because everything is so tightly packed."
Commercialization Before Accreditation?
When a caller brought up rolling out PPM without MRC accreditation, BOUVARD didn't specifically reply, but his inference seemed clear. He began by citing the three voluntary guidelines of the MRC (do an independent audit, submit it to an MRC subcommittee, and provide a pre-currency or demonstration period for customers), and noted that ARBITRON is doing all three, as well as placing a very high priority on improving the SPI, which is "a panel version of the response rate.
"We have been asked by some customers to delay the PPM re-start until MRC accreditation is achieved, which is something MRC prefers when you're replacing an existing service," he said. "However, they don't require it. In fact, waiting for it, as DAN MASON pointed out, would put radio at a competitive disadvantage. But we're absolutely committed to the value of MRC accreditation, and we're going to put our heads down and do whatever takes to achieve it."
Toning Down The Heated Rhetoric
Recognizing the intra-industry sniping going on over PPM accreditation, caller UNIVISION Regional Research & Marketing ROSEMARY SCOTT said, "The gravest concern I have is getting this right; we want to move the industry forward, yet I've been called a Luddite for complaining [about PPM]. We should treat each other with more humanity and respect during this whole dialogue.
The reality is ... we live in age of cutbacks. We're in a recession, which I have been hesitant to say, but I was stunned to read that posting is a do-all. I know a lot in TV people who rue the day of posting. It is a one-way street; if I overdeliver, the agency wont write me a check for 20% more."
"Posting is a buyer-seller issue," BOUVARD said. "We don't have a seat at that table. The rep firms say to us to work through certain issues, to help them out statistically with margin-of-error guidelines. That was our small role in the conversation. The real meat-and-potatoes of posting dialogue is [between] buyers and sellers."
Responding to SCOTT's concerns about the heated debate over PPM data, BOUVARD concluded, "Basically, ARBITRON is a complete reflection on the industry. All customer organizations give us input. If we didn't have their input. we'd be adrift. We're getting great feedback; we need the feedback, and that's why we're doing these calls."