Members of groups opposing the launch of Nielsen Media Research’s “Local People Meters” in Los Angeles met in Hollywood Thursday to discuss the impact that’s already been made on productions due to the undermeasurement of ethnic audiences.
Dennis Leoni, creator of Resurrection Blvd., a Latino-focused drama that ran on Showtime from 2000-02, said that at its height, the show was the third-highest-rated program on the pay service.
According to Nielsen, the program’s top rating was a 2.7, he said. But Nielsen underrepresents ratings in the Hispanic community by one-third, Leoni claimed, so that rating could have actually been as high as a 3.6.
Ratings improved by 35% in the series’ second season, when African-American-targeted drama Soul Food was added as a lead-in, Leoni said, demonstrating the cross-ethnic appeal of the show. Ultimately, the audience makeup was 55% white, 15% African American and 35% Hispanic, according to research, he added.
Actor Tony Plana said the show was canceled because “everybody’s looking for the next [Home Box Office’s The] Sopranos.”
“I go on the Internet, and everybody knows where I’ve been … there are cookies on my computer. Why can’t Nielsen do the same thing?” Leoni asked rhetorically.
Speakers asserted that ABC’s The George Lopez Show is on the cancellation bubble, and PBS’ American Family has been canceled, both victims of undercounting by Nielsen. This in spite of the fact that in many major markets, the coveted 18-34 demographic is more African-American and Latino then it is white, they added.
Actress Anne Marie Johnson, a member of the Screen Actors Guild’s Ethnic Employment Opportunities Committee, indicated that African Americans had made some strides in employment in front of and behind the camera in 2003.
Union statistics showed that 15% of TV, film and commercial jobs were filled by African Americans, which is more than their percentage of the population. However, Latinos only got 6% of the jobs, 3% were filled by Asians and Pacific Islanders and 0.5% by American Indians.
“Those numbers will dramatically change if Nielsen says there’s not viewership [by those racial groups],” she added.
Nielsen opponents said they’ve been arguing against the ratings system since at least 1985, adding that it’s time to add “or else” behind their “Don’t Count Us Out” slogan. Plana said the group should go to the state legislature to ban LPMs. “What Nielsen is doing is illegal,” he said.
Lawsuits, in addition to the one filed by Univision Communications Inc., are still under consideration by groups such as the National Hispanic Media Council, but representatives indicated that such a fight might be too costly.