Arbitron, best-known for their radio audience measurement, has been approached by Nielsen Holdings to be purchased for $1.26 billion, as reported by the WArbitron-Radioall Street Journal earlier this week.  Now that is a very Merry Christmas!  In conjunction with our own research, we use Arbitron’s radio audience measuring data to identify the number of stations by format, number of radio stations by state, the top 100 radio markets, and several other radio facts and figures.

So why does Nielsen consider Arbitron’s services to be so valuable, especially when they basically do the same type of research?  Nielsen has long since been the primary source of television ratings but has shown little interest in other media outlets in years past. However, it is this very fact that has recently made Nielsen susceptible to criticism, and a need to broaden their scope eminent. Especially with various technologies (such as watching TV online, on iPads, etc.) only growing in popularity, Nielsen is turning to Arbitron to track TV consumption in a more holistic, wide-ranging manner.

It has been suggested that Arbitron’s “Trojan Horse”, as stated by Todd Juenger, senior analyst at Bernstein Research, is their cross-platform measurement techniques. One of Arbitron’s most popular is the “portable people meter” (PPM) that resembles a pager, and is worn by participants for data collection.  Lest you think Arbitron is stuck in the 90s with this aesthetic, this measuring device is revolutionary in the sense that it allows for media usage to be measured both inside and outside of the home. According to Steve Lanzano, chief executive of TVB, (a trade group for the broadcast television industry) in scenarios such as NFL games, where many viewers will congregate at a bar to watch the game, Nielsen loses “20% of the audience…but with Arbitron’s PPM we can measure that audience and monetize it.”

It should be noted that if Nielsen were to buy Arbitron, this would not be their first encounter with one another. The two companies had partnered on an earlier project but did not produce the results desired on behalf of Nielsen.  However, Steve Hasker, Nielsen’s president of media products and advertiser solutions, stated that with Arbitron’s most recent technology and strong research efforts, more useful and accurate information will be generated.


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