Cable Welcomes People Meters to N.Y.C.

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Cable is eager for Nielsen Media Research to launch Local People Meters in New York City next month, even as News Corp. blasts the move — and the technology itself — on the eve of the upfront ad-sales auction.

Officials at Comcast Corp., whose systems in Northern New Jersey are part of the New York DMA, and the Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau support Nielsen’s move in New York.

“We’re in favor of local People Meters and we’re on the same side as the advertising agency community in that regard,” said Kevin Barry, the CAB’s vice president of local sales and marketing. “This measurement tool, at least in Boston, had the effect of increasing the reported audience from cable and it had the effect of decreasing the reported audience from broadcast television as a whole.”

The Comcast Spotlight ad-sales unit said it plans to subscribe to Local People Meters in all 10 markets where the ratings service plans to deploy them and is negotiating with Nielsen to expand rollouts to Seattle; Miami; Minneapolis; Denver; Sacramento, Calif.; Pittsburgh; Baltimore; Portland, Ore.; and Indianapolis, said Jonathan Sims, Comcast Spotlight’s vice president of research.

“We need a rational measurement system in place,” Sims said. “These markets have way too much money going into them to rely on that biased system any further.”

Local People Meters kicked off in Boston in 2002, and Nielsen said last week it’s delaying planned launches in Los Angeles and Chicago because of problems with samples in those markets.

Nielsen has no such issues in New York, spokesman Jack Loftus said, so local meters will launch there on April 8.

But Nielsen’s pronouncement that it was proceeding with Local People Meters in the Big Apple drew biting criticism from News Corp., in the form of a statement from Lachlan Murdoch, deputy chief operating officer for News Corp. and chairman of the Fox Television Stations Group.

News said the People Meter technology is “flawed and may undercount viewership by as much as 25%, particularly among young and minority viewers.” Murdoch added, “If the meter isn’t good enough for Los Angeles and Chicago yet, it certainly isn’t good enough for the nation’s largest market.”

Nielsen claims Fox is upset that its TV-station viewership is dropping in markets with local meters.

“Fox is totally off the wall here,” Loftus said. “It’s bizarre that they would say that the People Meter is no good for local, when they make a fortune selling national People Meter data in the marketplace. You can’t have it both ways.”

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