Arbitron Reveals PPM's Triple Play, Boosts Sports Ratings As Much As Three Times

Media planners were given a sneak peek Tuesday of new data from Arbitron's Portable People Meter (PPM) system indicating sports radio audiences are far more dynamic than were reflected by Arbitron's older paper-based diary system. Overall, the PPM, a passive electronic measurement system, revealed much higher audience cumes for most sports events than the paper diaries, said John Snyder, vice president of PPM Sales for Arbitron. Philadelphia stations, for example, showed "double or triple" what the diaries recorded.

"The numbers grow dramatically," Snyder noted, attributing the difference to human error in the old diary system: "Obviously, when it comes to completing the diary people forget that they listened to a particular sports program."

Addressing the particular nature of sports radio - including the idiosyncratic seasonal schedule for each sport, and the element of the unknown in championship play - PPM data allows quicker adjustment of media plans, Snyder went on.

Previously, "people bought fall numbers for three or four months, and they're still paying even when the team's no longer on the air." Now, with the PPM data upping report frequency from once every four months to roughly once a month, buyers could have more flexibility in how they allocate budgets.



The PPM data also shed new light on audiences of relatively brief sports events such as championships, Snyder said, recounting the example of two small Houston stations, which showed a jump from an average of 29,000 listeners to over 150,000 listeners during the recent World Cup in Soccer.

In light of listeners' propensity to tune in for winning teams, "there's also a downside to this data" for radio stations and sports franchises, Snyder conceded: "Of course if you're having a great year, and your team's hot, you want data a lot quicker... but if you're having a 15-game losing streak, obviously you don't want those numbers" released on a monthly basis. By the same token, Snyder noted that PPM reveals widely varying ratings for individual sports events, based on how exciting they are. "You can see if there's a blowout, like a game that's 37-to-7, cume drops dramatically, but for a good close game, it'll be much higher."

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