Arbitron celebrates MRC accreditation of 11 more PPM markets


It’s been 15 months since Arbitron got the Media Rating Council (MRC) to accredit a new Portable People (PPM) market, so the addition of the MRC double-checks to 11 more markets on Thursday (3/31) was reason for rejoicing at the ratings company. That brings the count to 14; with 34 other PPM markets denied accreditation and awaiting new audits.

Based on 2010 audits the MRC granted accreditation to the monthly average-quarter-hour radio ratings data produced by PPM in 11 new markets. Notably, that includes two Top 10 markets — #7 Atlanta and #8 Philadelphia – the first from the Top 10 since Houston (#6) became the first PPM market ever accredited by the MRC. Also winning accreditation for the first time are  #15 Phoenix; #20 Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater; #21 St. Louis; #23 Portland, OR; #28 Cincinnati; #29 Cleveland; #30 Salt Lake City-Ogden-Provo; #32 Kansas City; and #38 Milwaukee-Racine.

The 11 new markets join previously mentioned #6 Houston-Galveston; #16 Minneapolis-St. Paul; and #26 Riverside-San Bernardino as MRC accredited markets for Arbitron’s PPM ratings service.

MRC accreditation was denied in the other 34 PPM markets based on the findings of the 2010 audits. Arbitron notes that all 48 PPM markets are submitted for annual audits, so the 34 unaccredited markets and 14 accredited markets will be audited again in 2011.

“The MRC played an important role in helping us develop a number of our quality initiatives. We will continue to work with the MRC with the goal of achieving accreditation for Portable People Meter radio ratings across all PPM markets,” said Gregg Lindner, Arbitron  Exec. VP, Service Innovation and Chief Research Officer.

“Arbitron is doing way better,” MRC CEO and Executive Director George Ivie told RBR-TVBR. “We’re working with them in the details,” he added. Ivie said there was no way to predict when any accreditations or denials from the 2011 audits might be announced.

Arbitron has long touted its “continuous improvement” efforts for PPM, giving the most recent update just last week. By the end of this year all 48 markets will be using an address-based sample for recruitment and in-person recruitment for addresses which can’t be reached by phone – expensive procedures which had been used in Houston, the first market to be MRC-accredited, but not in other markets under the original “Radio First” methodology intended for PPM after Nielsen dropped out of a potential PPM joint venture with Arbitron to measure both radio and television. The address-based sample and in-person recruitment were key elements of a settlement reached last year with minority-focused broadcasters who had banded together as the PPM Coalition.

RBR-TVBR observation: 14 down, 34 to go. What’s really changed since Minneapolis-St. Paul was accredited, 18 markets were denied accreditation and two others had their audits closed without action was a lot of internal reorganization at Arbitron. That very same day 15 months ago Michael Skarzynski was ousted as CEO for reasons only tangentially related to PPM (lying in testimony to Congress) and Bill Kerr stepped in from the board of directors as the new captain of the ship. He made some staff changes and inaugurated a much more customer-focused approach to PPM, reaching out to the PPM Coalition and their allies on Capitol Hill. As a result, no major broadcast group is today publicly fighting against PPM and the methodology changes instituted, while costing Arbitron some cash, have dramatically increased the number of accredited markets. The job isn’t over yet, but a lot of progress has been made.