Arbitron Inc. (NYSE: ARB) announced today that it will delay the commercialization of its Portable People Meter (PPM) radio ratings service in nine markets. New York, Nassauâ€“Suffolk and Middlesexâ€“Somersetâ€“Union will be delayed by nine months; Los Angeles, Riverside and Chicago by six months; and San Francisco, San Jose and Dallas by three months.
In these nine markets, the Company will extend the use of the paper and pencil diary system that has been serving the industry since 1965. During the delay, Arbitron will continue to work with customers, the Media Rating CouncilÂ®, other industry organizations and community groups on the research and business issues related to the Portable People Meter radio ratings service in local markets.
â€œWe remain confident in the audience estimates that the Portable People Meter service is producing. However, over the past three weeks, feedback from our customers, the Media Rating Council and other constituencies has led us to conclude that the radio industry would be better served if we were to delay further commercialization of the PPM in order to address their issues,â€ said Steve Morris, chairman, president and chief executive officer, Arbitron Inc.
â€œWe already have a number of initiatives in the pipeline for implementation in the first quarter of 2008 that we believe will improve the performance of our PPM samples. Our intention is to expand significantly this list of improvement initiatives by working closely with customers, industry organizations and community groups. We expect that the Media Rating Council will be a particularly valuable source of guidance and advice on the more technically oriented aspects of this review and improvement process and we intend to work closely with the members of the MRC over the next several months,â€ said Mr. Morris.
â€œWe also plan to use the additional time to work closely with community leaders to review the workings of the Portable People Meter service and to gather their insights as to how we might improve compliance among persons 18-34, including ethnic young adults, across the diverse communities of New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and subsequent markets,â€ said Mr. Morris.
Revised Portable People Meter Rollout Schedule
First survey month of â€œcurrencyâ€ PPM data for buy/sell transactions
Arbitron intends to introduce the Portable People Meter service in Atlanta, Detroit, Washington D.C. and in subsequent markets, as originally scheduled.
The ratings for the September 2008 PPM survey month (August 21 â€“ September 17) are scheduled to be delivered to customers on October 8, 2008. The first â€œcurrencyâ€ survey month in Los Angeles, Riverside, Chicago, San Francisco and San Jose will be preceded by two â€œpre-currencyâ€ monthly PPM reports in July and August. In Dallas, the two â€œpre-currencyâ€ months will be October and November 2008. The first â€œcurrencyâ€ month in Dallas will be the December PPM survey month (November 13 â€“ December 10) scheduled to be released on December 31, 2008.
New York, Nassau-Suffolk and Middlesex-Somerset-Union â€œpre-currencyâ€ data will continue to be released through August 2008 but only as monthly reports for research and evaluation purposes, and not in a format that can be used by software systems that have a scheduler module which is used for the buying and selling of radio station advertising.
This decision does not impact the Portable People Meter radio ratings services currently in operation in Houston and Philadelphia. Monthly and weekly ratings reports based on the currently installed PPM panels in these two markets will continue to be issued to radio stations, agencies and advertisers as scheduled for their use in the buying and selling of radio station advertising.
Revised Financial Guidance for 2007 and Outlook for 2008
As a result of its decision to delay further implementation of the Portable People Meter service, the Company is updating its previously issued guidance to reflect the resultant financial impact. Earnings per share (diluted) for 2007 are currently estimated to be between $1.30 and $1.35 as compared to its previously issued earnings per share guidance of $1.35 to $1.45.
In addition, the Company currently estimates the impact of foregone revenue and additional costs required to produce diary estimates in the affected markets will reduce 2008 earnings by $0.22 to $0.33 per share (diluted). Consistent with past practices, detailed annual revenue and earnings per share guidance will be provided in conjunction with our fourth quarter 2007 earnings release expected to be issued in February 2008.
Conference call: schedule and access
Arbitron will host a conference call at 9:00 a.m. ET on Tuesday, November 27 to discuss the revision to the Portable People Meter rollout schedule and other relevant matters. To listen to the call, dial (toll free) 888-694-4641. The conference call can be accessed from outside of the United States by dialing 973-582-2734. To participate, users will need to use the following code: 9500497. The call will also be available live on the Internet at the following sites: www.arbitron.com, www.ccbn.com and www.streetevents.com .