As Arbitron Falls, Anger Rises: Many Shudder at Thought of New, Non-Competitive Ratings Era

NEW YORK – It was, effectively, a 40-year horse race with just two horses running. Nielsen Media Research and Arbitron Co. ran neck and neck for the duration, alternately relinquishing and regaining the lead. And now the race has been run. Nielsen stands in the coveted winner’s circle. The announcement was stunning: Arbitron would discontinue its television ratings service effective the end of 1993. It would pare its existing staff by 700. Nielsen, after nearly half a century of competition, would finally stand alone.
But in a free-market system, competition fuels motivation. Nielsen Market Research now monopolizes the television-rating business, and many industry insiders are not pleased. ‘We are very disappointed with Arbitron’s decision. This indicates they bowed to financial pressure,’ said Joe Philport, senior vp worldwide director of media research for Young & Rubicam in New York. ‘To say that we’re frustrated would be a polite way of saying that we’re very unhappy with the new management’s decision,’ he says. Dave Poltrack, senior vp planning and research at CBS, was equally unhappy. ‘It’s very disappointing. From the beginning, we’ve been active supporters of competition in this marketplace,’ he said.
‘Everyone will be watching Nielsen very closely in light of recent events,’ said Peter Chrisanthopolous, ABC executive vp research, marketing and promotion.
John Dimling, president and ceo at Nielsen Market Research, insists Nielsen will not disappoint. Plans are underway for a National Delivery System rollout in summer 1994, which theoretically will afford Nielsen customers greatly expanded electronic access to all national cable, network and syndicated broadcast people-meter data.
Copyright Adweek L.P. (1993)