Strong Q3 for Arbitron, full year guidance reaffirmed


Q3 revenues were up, but not quite as much as some analysts expected. However, earnings per share for Arbitron were 55 cents for the quarter, up seven cents from a year ago and beating the Wall Street consensus by eight cents. The company confirmed its previous guidance that full year earnings will be $1.90-2.05 per share.

Arbitron also reiterated its guidance that full year revenues will be up 6-8%. Q3 revenues were up 6.1% to $105.6 million, slightly below the Street consensus of $106.4 million.

Revenues gained primarily because of the completion of Portable People Meter (PPM) commercialization in all 48 markets in Q4 of 2010 and the return of Univision Radio as a client for Arbitron’s ratings.

Arbitron was able to hold the line on expenses, with costs down 1.8% in Q3. That helped push EBITDA up 32.4% to $33.6 million.

On the acquisition front, CEO Bill Kerr (pictured) noted the acquisition of Zokem Oy, now called Arbitron Mobile, for $11.7 million. He said that will be valuable for future cross-platform initiatives.

Arbitron has already been working on a single-source panel to measure TV, Internet and mobile usage under a proof-of-concept project awarded by the Coalition for Innovative Media Measurement (CIMM). “We expect to deliver the first three-screen media insights to the members of CIMM in the 4th quarter, Kerr noted.

While not officially calling new COO Sean Creamer his successor-in-waiting, Kerr went out of his way to discuss the importance of Creamer’s new duties. “Sean now has overall responsibility for Arbitron’s core businesses and we are also counting on Sean to help the company execute our cross-platform digital and mobile growth strategies. Over the past half-dozen years Sean has consistently demonstrated a strong customer focus, solid executive leadership and keen business savvy. Sean’s new role is not only an acknowledgement of his abilities and his contributions, it’s the next logical step in the evolution of our senior management team,” Kerr said. “We believe that having Sean as our Chief Operating Officer positions the company extremely well in terms of our future leadership needs,” he added.

RBR-TVBR observation: PPM is certainly what’s driving Arbitron, but the company did make mention of Project Leapfrog, the hoped-for successor to its diary service in medium and smaller markets. “So far, so good,” was the analysis from COO Sean Creamer of Leapfrog tests thus far. He acknowledged that clients would like to see a faster pace, but he said there are limitations from a research perspective to make Arbitron officials comfortable before launching a change in ratings currency.