Arbitron reportedly to relax rules for online "simulcast" streams

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Apr 30 2013 - 11:50am

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Arbitron will reportedly relax some of its terms under which a broadcaster's online stream can be considered a "simulcast."

Until now, Arbitron would consider a station's stream a "simulcast" only if it were 100% identical to the on-air broadcast -- content, ads, everything needed to be the same (and aired at the same time) on the stream as was aired on AM or FM. This means a station stream that substitutes on-air commercials with "online-only" ads, public service messages, promos, or other content, in the stream is not a "simulcast" -- and thus its streaming audience cannot be combined with its on-air audience for ratings purposes.

Beginning in May, the ratings company will allow a "simulcast" broadcast to substitute ads to streaming listeners outside the station's metro area with different ads from the same advertiser. All other content outside of commercials must remain 100% identical.

This change allows stations to "fulfill an advertiser's request that locally advertised specials not be heard outside the local market yet still qualify to receive Total Line Reporting," Inside Radio reports today. Radio can add its digital listening towards its total audience numbers, as well as sell combined on-air/online ad campaigns even for advertisers who want to restrict specific messaging to within the metro.

Inside Radio writes that some broadcasters say McDonald's and Subway directed stations to remove certain spots from their streams for this very reason.

Paragon consultant Mike Henry wrote of many mid- and smaller-sized broadcasters moving towards fully-simulcasting (that is, not changing ads for streaming) because of its inherent advantages. He blogged, "This shift is interesting because it pits the streaming strategy of major groups such as CBS and Clear Channel in one camp, and the mid-sized and smaller groups in another camp. The majors are apparently betting on a streaming sales future, while the other groups are retrenching behind towers and their broadcast sales."

Read more in today's Inside Radio (subscribe here) and from Paragon here.

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