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Digital & cross-platform are priorities for Arbitron, but radio lifts revs 5.5%

April 19, 2012

Arbitron executives tell this morning's conference call they're continuing to work on integrating traditional radio with emerging platforms, with CEO Bill Kerr admitting that the definition of categories is "still a work in progress." It is also still a priority. Arbitron continues to use its PPM device to enter new markets, as evidenced by its "March Madness" out-of-home TV work for Turner, and this summer's participation in NBC's "Billion Dollar Lab."

First quarter revenues for Arbitron grew 5.5% to $106.4 million. Most of that was driven by annual rate increases in its long-term contracts with radio customers, including the phase-in of PPM contracts. Costs rose 4.7%, with more than half of that due to Arbitron's acquisition of Finnish company Zokem to create "Arbitron Mobile." Earlier this week, Arbitron announced it has taken its U.S. mobile panel to "live" status. Arbitron's EBITA margin grew from 33.6% in last year's first quarter to 34.4%. For the full year of 2012, Arbitron still expects revenue to grow 5-7%, and earnings to finish between $2.15 and $2.30 a share, growing in the range of 8% to 15%. Arbitron CFO Richard Surratt is leaving in June, as recently announced (he was on this morning's call), and CEO Bill Kerr says recruiting a successor is "a top priority."

Arbitron announces a new five-year renewal deal with Dial Global for RADAR and other research services. On the multi-platform side, it showed its Marketing Mix Modeling service at the recent Advertising Research Foundation convention. The first tests, for a fast-food client and a theme park, show radio's value as part of a media mix, in a way that is quantifiable in terms of what COO Sean Creamer calls "ringing the cash register." Earlier this week, Google announced it would begin using the TV industry concept of Gross Rating Points, in an effort to sell advertising in the manner of traditional TV. When asked about that development by an analyst on the Arbitron quarterly call, COO Sean Creamer says that was "certainly not a surprise" and predicts that going forward, there will be "a competitive environment, but also a collaborative environment" available to Arbitron, as a measurement company. Generally, Creamer ("CRAY-mer") sees "an increased level of opportunity to collaborate." 

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