Nielsen, News Corp. Ink Deal

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Nielsen Media Research and News Corp., once at war over local TV measurement, reached a landmark eight-year pact that consolidates more than 150 individual agreements between the companies, providing audience measurement for Rupert Murdoch’s cable networks, TV stations, the Fox broadcast network and DirecTV.

Financial terms of the deal, announced Wednesday, were not disclosed.

In 2004 and 2005, News Corp. and Nielsen engaged in a nasty public battle over the ratings service’s rollout of a new service, Local People Meters. News Corp., a number of other broadcasters, a coalition of black and Hispanic groups called Don’t Count Us Out -- backed by News Corp. -- and several minority organizations charged that the new meters were undercounting viewers of color.

But News Corp. spokesman Andrew Butcher said Wednesday that his company and Nielsen have settled their differences over the LPMs. As part of the new master agreement, Nielsen is investing about $50 million in programs designed to enhance the response rates of participants in its samples, with special emphasis on younger demographics and communities of color.

Under the new contract, Nielsen will provide News Corp. with local-television-audience estimates for 35 Fox-owned local television stations, including LPM service for Fox television stations in markets measured by LPMs.

“This agreement, which was more than one year in the making, affords us much greater efficiencies and simplicity in our relationship with Nielsen,” News Corp. executive vice president of corporate affairs Gary Ginsberg said in a prepared statement.

“We're very pleased to put our differences with Nielsen behind us and to usher in a new era of constructive and even deeper relations between our two companies.” he added. “Nielsen’s willingness to take concrete and ongoing steps to ensure that its measurement systems accurately count all viewers was critical to achieving this deal.”

The News Corp. entities and affiliates -- 49 TV entities in all -- covered under the agreement include Fox Broadcasting, Fox News Channel, FX, Speed Channel, National Geographic Channel, Fox Soccer Channel, Fox Sports Net, Fox Sports en Español, DirecTV, Twentieth Television and Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp.

However, News Corp.’s new comprehensive agreement with Nielsen does not include the controversial new service the measurement company is trying to set up -- audience measurement for national commercials.

“In an era of digital television and multiple delivery platforms, we believe it makes sense for our clients to take an integrated approach for audience measurement,” Nielsen senior vice president for strategy of business Dave Thomas said in a prepared statement. “News Corp. has long been a valued Nielsen client, and we have worked tirelessly for months to craft a landmark agreement ensuring that Nielsen will continue to provide News Corp. with the highest-quality measurement services for their many television platforms.”

Nielsen will continue its successful community-outreach programs that include a variety of initiatives that promote broader awareness of the company and its role in the television industry.

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