Nielsen signs deal with ESPN Radio

Company's first radio ratings to be delivered in August

Nielsen's foray into the U.S. radio ratings business dominated by Arbitron picked up steam Wednesday with the announcement it had signed a multiyear contract with ESPN Radio for its service.

In addition, two local agencies have signed on for Nielsen radio ratings, Schnucks Creative Services in St. Louis, Mo. and Meridian-Chiles in Lexington, Ky.

The new clients join Cumulus Media and Clear Channel Radio, which signed for the Nielsen radio service when it was announced last November.

Nielsen's first radio ratings are due to be delivered in August.

Nielsen, a giant in TV ratings, poses a mounting challenge to Arbitron in 51 smaller markets where Arbitron uses diaries to collect radio listening. Nielsen also uses a diary but asks survey participants to indicate their listening with preprinted stickers.

ESPN Radio owns five stations. One of the five, WEPN-AM can also be heard in Westchester County, which is measured by Nielsen's radio service. ESPN Radio Network also has more than 300 affiliates and provides programming to 750 stations, two-thirds of which are in one of the Nielsen radio markets.

"We have a long history of supporting innovative research and look forward to reviewing the first set of audience data when it is released in August," said Dr. Tom Evans, vp of digital and cross media research for ESPN.

Nielsen, parent company of Mediaweek and The Hollywood Reporter, is not new to radio ratings. It measures radio listening using its "sticker diary" methodology in Australia and other international markets.