However, rebellion is increasingly plausible. Clear Channel has moved 18 of the remaining markets to a new system of radio ratings provided by Nielsen.
Per the terms of the deal, Arbitron's diary ratings will again be made available to Clear Channel Radio as well as Katz Media Group, a national radio sales rep firm owned by Arbitron, and Clear Channel Traffic. None of these deals or markets involve measurement by Arbitron's Portable People Meter, a passive electronic measurement device that is used for radio ratings.
Last November, Clear Channel followed a move by Cumulus to ditch Arbitron ratings for various small and mid-sized markets in favor of measurement by Nielsen. At the time, Cumulus said it would move 50 stations to Nielsen, while Clear Channel moved 17. The 18th Clear Channel station to get Nielsen measurement, in Newburgh/Middletown, NY, was announced this week.
In response, Arbitron's new CEO, Michael Skarzynski, said in November he planned to "win back" business lost to Nielsen, formerly an Arbitron partner on Project Apollo but now clearly a rival in the radio ratings business.
However, Clear Channel has hinted that it may move more business to Nielsen in the not-too-distant future, possibly including the 105 markets covered in this week's deal with Arbitron, after their three-year contract expires. In a statement about the various agreements, Clear Channel said it is "fully committed" to Nielsen measurement in the 18 markets indicated, and pointedly remarked that "we remain interested in expanding our relationship [with Nielsen] to include additional markets."
Clear Channel and Arbitron have squabbled over the cost of radio ratings for years, and their long-standing dispute reached new levels of acrimony and publicity and political wrangles during the rollout of Arbitron's Portable People Meter, a passive electronic measurement device intended to replace its traditional paper diary ratings in the big American markets.