NEW YORK: Audience ratings giant Nielsen Media Research could go head-to-head with Arbitron in a challenge to the latter's dominance of the US radio measurement market.

Nielsen, which earlier this year abandoned a joint venture to use Arbitron's proposed Portable People Meter to gauge television and radio audiences, has announced it is in talks with Clear Channel Communications' electronic ratings committee.

Clear Channel, with its 1,200 radio stations, currently accounts for 19% of Arbitron's revenue but has become increasingly unhappy over the cost of using people meters in place of the paper diary system.

The people meters, which are worn by listeners, automatically detect what is being heard and then beam data to the number crunchers. Arbitron claims they are more accurate and that the industry has much to gain by adopting them as soon as possible.

Nielsen, which dominates the TV ratings sector, and Clear Channel are reported to be negotiating the testing of the former's cellphone-based "go meter", first earmarked as a device for measuring out-of-home TV viewing.

There are other contenders for the US radio ratings prize now testing their own devices, namely the German GfK and Media Audit in Houston working with Paris-headquartered Ipsos.

However, Arbitron's greatest advantage in the increasingly fierce battle is that its people meter is very much further down the hugely expensive testing route. In addition, it has already wooed CBS Radio with its charms [WARC News: 22-May-06].

Data sourced from Adweek (USA); additional content by WARC staff