Nielsen already favored by many local stations

October 19, 1993|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,Television Critic

Even in its backyard market, Arbitron's TV ratings service played such a distant second here to the Nielsens that something had to give.

That's what local station managers -- the present and former clients of Arbitron -- were saying yesterday in response to news that New York-based Arbitron would close its TV ratings service at the end of the year.

"It doesn't surprise me," said Joe Heston, station manager and vice president of WBAL (Channel 11). "As far back as 1988 when I was in Pittsburgh and stations were wondering whether they wanted to pay for two ratings services, Arbitron was the one people were saying they could do without."

WBAL is not an Arbitron client. Like WMAR (Channel 2) and WJZ (Channel 13), the two other network affiliates in Baltimore, WBAL subscribes only to the A.C. Nielsen ratings service.

However, Baltimore's two independent stations -- WNUV (Channel 54) and WBFF (Channel 45) -- do subscribe to Arbitron.

That had become the pattern in many major markets starting in the late 1980s, as TV stations tightened their budgets.

One of the things many stations decided they could live without was a second ratings service. And Arbitron, which has the bulk of its operations in Laurel, was the secondary service.

In addition, Arbitron officials said that its service, which cost TV stations in larger markets hundreds of thousands each year, was recently undercut by less-expensive Nielsen services.

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