ESPN could be the reason that the merger of Nielsen and Arbitron has been delayed, according to a report in today's New York Post. The paper says that the "Worldwide Leader" licenses software from Arbitron for a new project which will allow the Sports network to learn how often its viewers are tuning into its content on different devices (including radio). However, the license will be expiring soon and according to the Post, a promise from Nielsen to continue to license the software to ESPN "is likely integral to the merger getting federal approval."
A source tells the Post that ESPN SVP Artie Bulgrin has been in talks with the FTC about the matter but "There is nothing settled." The FTC is expected to make a decision this week on whether it will file to block the merger.
The Post also reports that to get approval of the merger, Nielsen could agree to license Arbitron's PPM technology to any of its competitors.
Additionally, one of Nielsen's biggest customers is ESPN's parent company Disney, and if it formally objects to the merger, it will be difficult for the deal to receive FTC approval. ESPN was initially against the merger, one source told the Post, but now is discussing a compromise.