Arbitron Ends Radio Ratings Standoff With Viacom's Infinity Unit

In an important resolution to a high-profiles standoff for the radio industry, Arbitron late Tuesday said it signed Viacom's Infinity Broadcasting unit to a new multi-year radio ratings contract. The deal ends two-months of an Arbitron boycott by Infinity, owner of 185 stations and one of the largest radio broadcasters, which had Madison Avenue scratching its head.

"We still got numbers on them from Arbitron, but we couldn't give it to them," noted Jon Mandel, chairman and chief global buying officer of MediaCom. "It was pennywise and found foolish for them."

While Arbitron did not disclose terms of the deal, Infinity was believed to be holding out to negotiate more favorable financial terms for a new rating contract with Arbitron, the sole supplier of radio ratings. The deal differed from a similar standoff between Arbitron and another radio biggie, Clear Channel Communications, several years ago, which resulted in a new, more innovative radio ratings processing system.

The agreement gives Infinity immediate access to Arbitron's quarterly radio ratings in 42 markets effective with the Spring 2004 survey.

The deal also improved the financial visibility for Arbitron, a publicly traded company that has been investing mightily in efforts to diversify its business beyond its core radio ratings services, including expansion of media planning and buying systems, as well as the costly development of its portable people meter system.

As a result of the Infinity agreement, Arbitron upgraded its financial outlook, telling shareholders that it now expects year-end 2004 revenues to increase between 8.5 percent and 10.5 percent over 2003. Net Income is expected to increase 12 percent to 14 percent.

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