Dauman: Viacom Will "Deal With" Ratings Glitch


Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman didn't have much to add in the media giant's ongoing ratings dispute with Nielsen Media Research, but showed what appeared to be a growing frustration with the matter.
Dauman first revealed during Viacom's fiscal fourth quarter conference call that a glitch at Nielsen resulted in a precipitous drop in ratings at kids' powerhouse Nickelodeon in September. Dauman said at the time that it was working with Nielsen to correct the problem. Since then, Nielsen ratings showed another steep drop at Nickelodeon in November, which caused some analysts to sound alarm bells.
Nickelodeon has said it is prepared to provide make-goods to advertisers due to the declines.
Earlier Monday, the Wall Street Journal reported that Nielsen has admitted that it incorrectly reported a rise in the number of children viewing television this fall, but disagreed with Viacom over the Nickelodeon ratings.
At the UBS Media & Entertainment conference in New York Monday, Dauman said that nothing has changed on the Nielsen front.
"As of now, however imperfect Nielsen is, it's the only game in town," Dauman said. "So we have to live with it."
Dauman noted that the timing of the Nielsen problem comes at an unfortunate time for the network - the middle of the Holiday buying season - but that the network should weather the storm. Dauman pointed out that Nickelodeon ad sales, while strong, are increasingly a smaller part of Viacom's overall ad sales picture, which includes MTV and Comedy Central among others.
He added in the kids' space, Nickelodeon has maintained a 100% ratings lead over its closest ad-supported competitor, Cartoon Network.
"One way or another, we will move forward," Dauman said.
Later, Dauman said that typically Nielsen families churn during ratings periods, which can cause some anomalies in ratings numbers.
"We're not the only ones over time who have comments to make there," Dauman said. "It is what it is. There is not much we can do about this quarter. It would have been a lot better if it had happened any other quarter, but what's what happened, and we'll deal with it, and it will rectify itself substantively and we will move on."