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Audience Measurement Firms Tout Synergies of Proposed Deal

Creamer on Nielsen acquisition of Arbitron: ‘It’s just the right time’

Arbitron and Nielsen believe that together, they can better measure more audience and go where that audience consumes media in the future.

So said executives of both companies in a conference call with Wall Street analysts today.

The deal for Nielsen to acquire Arbitron, announced this morning, makes sense for both ratings companies, executives said, as they pointed to similar goals and business plans.

For radio, the deal helps bring the medium “more into the center part of the advertising mix,” said Arbitron President/CEO Bill Kerr, who’s soon transitioning away from that position but will remain on the board. He also said the deal creates “broader opportunities for our employees.”

“Nielsen is deep in retail data. We link to advertising mediums,” said Nielsen CEO David Calhoun, who added that Arbitron will help the TV ratings firm “better solve for unmeasured areas of media consumption, including streaming audio and out-of-home.”

Calhoun said the deal advances the long-term objectives of Nielsen as it captures more of the consumer’s time and “their rapidly changing behavior.”

Nielsen and Arbitron have collaborated before, most notably on “Project Apollo” in 2006, a single-household metric for all consumed media. Calhoun said the project was costly and ineffective, however he called it a good try.

Arbitron and Nielsen also joined forces early on with the development of electronic measurement though Nielsen later chose to go its own way with TV measurement. The Arbitron Portable People Meter does measure both video as well as audio though Arbitron chose to use it for audio measurement only domestically and video measurement internationally.

Both companies also collaborate on qualitative data from Scarborough Research, a joint venture between Nielsen and Arbitron.

Arbitron EVP/COO Sean Creamer, who’s due to succeed Kerr in early January, said both companies “think similarly about our approach to customers.” Of the deal, he said, “It’s just the right time.”

Arbitron is especially intrigued by Nielsen’s global footprint, Creamer said, noting it would have been “incredibly challenging and time-consuming for us to get there long-term.”

Executives skirted a question about the future of current Arbitron management, other than Calhoun characterizing Arbitron as “the domain experts in radio,” and “we have a lot of appreciation for what they bring their clients.”

Asked about how the cross-measurement products from both companies would fare, Calhoun said “we don’t know enough about each other’s road maps today” to discuss integration.

Arbitron has been working on a cross-platform measurement concept for awhile, one that would measure both traditional radio and streamed stations. In answering one analyst’s question about that, Creamer said: “Our job is to measure radio wherever it’s being consumed.” Calling the models different, with possible different methodology needs, he said the company “is working with industry on that definition now.”

The transaction is subject to regulatory review from the FCC and the DOJ. Executives would not hazard a guess on a closing date.