SBS Starts Encoding Again

Spanish Broadcasting System began encoding its radio station signals for Arbitron’s portable people meter ratings service last Thursday evening (April 8), putting its nine stations back in the ratings. The change of heart followed a meeting with Arbitron on Wednesday.

According to a filing (dated April 12) with the New York Supreme Court, Arbitron and SBS are in the process of settling their legal dispute that began late last year. As a result of that dispute, in which Arbitron claims it is owed $2.5 million from SBS, SBS pulled its encoders.
The Court ordered SBS to encode, then it lifted the temporary restraining order on March 30 and SBS pulled the encoders again from its stations in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco and Miami.

The parties expect to have a conference once the settlement papers are finalized on April 29.

The issue of encoding is critical to the credibility of Arbitron’s PPM service, which cannot produce ratings for stations unless radio signals are encoded.

As of April 1, Univision Communications, which also has issues with Arbitron, agreed to encode 19 stations in Miami, San Diego, Phoenix, San Antonio and Las Vegas after a months-long hiatus. Though encoding, Univision only subscribes to the PPM service in Houston, one of only three markets with Media Rating Council accreditation.

For advertisers, the end of the PPM encoding crisis means buying Spanish-language radio just got a lot easier. And while it’s a significant step for Arbitron, the ratings firm still has to resolve its differences with minority broadcasters who claim Arbitron’s methodology undercounts minorities. Arbitron remains in discussions with the PPM Coalition on a plan to improve its service.