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Nielsen Goes After U.S. Radio Measurement Business

Signs Cumulus, Clear Channel for certain smaller diary markets.

The U.S. radio broadcast ratings marketplace, long dominated by Arbitron, saw the entrance of another familiar name into the game this week: Nielsen.

The company — which provides diary radio audience measurement and ratings overseas but has not measured radio in this country for nearly four decades — plans to challenge Arbitron for that business.

The company said this week it has agreements with Cumulus Media for 50 small to mid-size markets and with Clear Channel for 17 such markets beginning in the third quarter of 2009.

Both Cumulus and Clear Channel contract with Arbitron for its PPM service in large markets. Clear Channel will need to negotiate for diary ratings with Arbitron in small markets not covered by Nielsen.

The broadcast groups said the change was in response to the recent request for proposal issued by Cumulus “to improve the quality and value of radio ratings,” according to Cumulus President/CEO Lew Dickey.

Nielsen plans to place a so-called “sticker” diary once a year in the selected markets. With this diary, respondents place stickers pre-printed with the station calls over quarter-hour boxes.

Arbitron President/Chairman/CEO Steve Morris called a once-a-year survey “a step backward,” adding that advertisers and ad agencies have told his company that radio markets need more frequent surveys in order to maintain accountability and recapture revenue from out-of-home, Internet and online media.

Arbitron said it does not plan to abandon the markets in which Nielsen plans to place diaries.