Arbitron Acquires IMMI

Arbitron announced late Monday (June 21) it acquired the technology, patents and trade name from Integrated Media Measurement. IMMI, a start-up research firm based in San Mateo, Calif., uses audio matching software in smart phones to track consumer exposure to multiple media.

With the sale, IMMI is changing its name to Audience Measurement Technologies.
Terms were not disclosed.

The acquisition eliminates a potential competitor to Arbitron, which has its own portable media measurement device, the portable people meter.

Arbitron’s two-paragraph press release provided no details about how the company might use the IMMI technology and patents. An Arbitron spokesperson said the company was buying IMMI “to enhance the company’s overall capabilities and technology portfolio.”

Potentially, the IMMI technology could help Arbitron put its PPM software in smart phones. The audio matching technology might be used as hedge against radio companies that refuse to encode their signals, such in the recent spats with Spanish Broadcasting System and Univision Communications.

Four IMMI engineers in audio matching and mobile platform development will be joining Arbitron.

IMMI never quite got off the ground. The company is best known for its joint venture with Nielsen to measure out of home TV viewing. The short-lived service launched in 2007 and shut down in Nov. 2008 after signing only two clients, ESPN and Zenith Optimedia. The service was based on a panel of 500 panelists in six local markets (New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, Houston and Denver) plus 1,700 national panelists. A small 40-person panel provided cross-platform measurement data for NBC Universal’s Olympics measurement lab.

Arbitron said it would not be operating IMMI’s panels.

Ironically, IMMI’s president and CEO, Bill McKenna, once worked for Arbitron in the late 80s. No word on McKenna’s next move.