B’casters Balk at ‘LPM’ D.C. Data

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Several broadcasters in Washington, D.C., Friday disputed preliminary data Nielsen Media Research released from its “Local People Meters” in that market, where the technology is set to be deployed June 2.

TV stations were taken by surprise by the four-page progress report Nielsen sent out, which discussed initial data from the LPMs, with the ratings company saying that TV viewing is up in key demographics, and that among African-American audiences, the number of people watching TV in the LPM sample was higher than with the old set meters in May 2004.

The progress report also said fault rates for black and Hispanics in the LPM group were lower than those from the old set meters.

Officials from News Corp.’s Fox Broadcasting Co. and Allbritton Communications Co., which have stations in Washington, were caught off-guard by the report.

“Without even the courtesy of providing it to us -- and after them pointedly rejecting our request to meet -- Nielsen slops one week’s worth of data and then draws some outrageous conclusions based on information that they won’t provide to us,” said Jerald Fritz, Allbritton’s senior vice president of legal and strategic affairs.

“They have all of these demo breakouts, and we’re not supposed to get demo breakdown for a month-and-a-half,” he added. “This system is not even close to being ready for commercial deployment.”

Nielsen’s LPM deployment has been controversial, opposed by some black and Hispanic groups, led by Don’t Count Us Out, as well as broadcasters like News Corp. and Tribune Broadcasting.

In the Washington DMA, broadcasters are so concerned that they sought to meet as a group with the ratings company. Allbritton owns ABC affiliate WJLA in that market.

Fritz and several Fox officials claimed that despite Nielsen’s report, fault rates in the LPM sample for African Americans and Latinos are very high and household numbers are down with the new LPM technology.

“The reality is that there continues to be problems,” said Tom Herwitz, president of station operations for Fox Television Stations.

Duffy Dyer, general manager for Fox’s WTTG, said that in addition to high fault rates, there is a disparity in the HUT (households using television) numbers between the LPM and set-meter samples in Washington.

The broadcasters want Nielsen to wait until the Media Ratings Council accredits the LPMs before Nielsen deploys them in additional markets.

“We have urged Nielsen not to foist this half-baked system on viewers, advertisers, broadcasters and cable operators until the MRC can accredit it,” Fritz said.

According to Nielsen, LPMs in Washington indicated that African Americans are watching more cable programming than the old measuring system indicated, with channels like USA Network and Lifetime Television seeing big gains.

“African Americans in the LPM sample are watching more cable programming than was reported in the set-meter sample,” the Nielsen report said.

In particular, USA, Bravo, Animal Planet and Lifetime saw their numbers soar among black audiences with LPMs. In primetime ratings for black households, Animal Planet was up 113%, from a 0.15 with set meters to a 0.32 with LPMs. Bravo was up 213%, from a 0.08 to a 0.25. Lifetime was up 112%, from a 1.37 to a 2.90, while USA was up 128%, from a 1.46 to a 3.33. Black Entertainment Television was up 26%, from a 1.44 to a 1.82.

The ratings company also maintained that its Washington LPM sample is more representative of the local population that the set-meter sample it is replacing. The week of May 2, the LPM sample has 609 homes, versus 440 for the set meters. In addition, the number of African-American households has increased to 146 from 113, while the number of Latino households has increased to 51 from 23.

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