In a surprising move Tuesday, in contrast to the recent outcry from Hispanic groups, Black Entertainment Television has come out in favor of the rollout of “Local People Meters” by Nielsen Media Research.
The planned deployment of the LPMs in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago has created a firestorm of controversy, with the loudest critics being News Corp., Hispanic groups and politicians. The brouhaha over the meters earlier this week prompted the Rev. Al Sharpton to stage a protest at Nielsen’s Manhattan headquarters.
So BET’s defense of the meters, as providing more accurate ratings and overall viewership information, was unexpected.
“We have always been concerned that the paper diary system for gathering local ratings was vulnerable to substantial inaccuracies and that African-American households were underrepresented in Nielsen’s paper diary sample,” BET president Debra Lee said in a prepared statement.
“Nielsen already measures national ratings via the use of the People Meter technology,” she added. “It makes sense to use modern methodology like LPMs to accurately measure viewership at the local level.”
Hispanic groups have claimed that the LPMs underrepresent Latino audiences. That’s because ratings for some broadcast shows popular with blacks and Hispanics have lost viewership when measured by the new meters.
But Lee said that drop-off reflects the fact that in reality, some of this viewership is going to cable networks like BET.
“Quite frankly, we don’t understand why some broadcasters would oppose any method of truthfully tracking what viewers are and are not watching, regardless of their ethnic background,” Lee said. “Networks like BET could certainly benefit from information that depicts the true viewing patterns of African-American consumers.”
Lee also noted that Nielsen is doubling the size of its national sample panel, and that African-American households will increase by 79%.