Nielsen: Rollout’s On

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Nielsen Media Research this week is slated to start using its controversial Local People Meters here, despite vocal opposition that now includes big Spanish-language broadcaster Univision Communications Inc.

While Univision has come out against the rollout, claiming the LPM sample underrepresents young, Spanish-speaking Hispanics, Nielsen picked up some more support from the cable side of the business. MBC Network became the third African-American channel to come out and publicly back the LPMs.

“We’re convinced it’s a more accurate system,” said MBC vice president of affiliate sales Samara Cummins.

Officials at Nielsen, which has delayed its rollout of the LPMs for two months, last week said the company will move forward and kick off the meter system this Thursday, June 3.

COUNCIL MET, HEARD

“Because electronic People Meters are so demonstrably better and more accurate than paper diaries, we believe the only responsible course is to proceed with the June 3 launch of Local People Meter service in New York,” Nielsen CEO Susan Whiting told the city council’s Consumer Affairs Committee during a hearing on the LPMs last week.

Council members and representatives of Don’t Count Us Out, a coalition of black and Hispanic groups, blasted Nielsen’s plan to proceed with the LPM service in the Big Apple. Nielsen’s critics — including News Corp. and the National Association of Broadcasters — charge the ratings company’s sample in New York underrepresents minorities.

Nielsen, in turn, continues to argue that its LPM sample in New York actually overrepresents minorities, and that the whole technology is much more accurate than the current paper-diary system.

At the hearing, Whiting also said preliminary LPM data in New York shows overall viewing by blacks and Latinos has remained constant, but viewers from those groups are watching a wider variety of networks than the old diary system indicated.

“This shift in viewing patterns, while disturbing to some media companies, is clearly benefiting many smaller broadcast and cable networks — several of which are owned and operated by people of color,” Whiting said during the council hearing.

Black Entertainment Television and TV One have already come out in favor of the LPMs, with MBC Network — whose management includes vice chairman Evander Holyfield and co-founder and executive board member Marlon Jackson — has now joined their ranks.

Whiting testified that “among African-American viewers, total-day viewing for [Black Entertainment Television] is up 180% under LPMs.”

At broadcaster Univision, officials said they’ll stop subscribing to both the Nielsen Station Index and the Nielsen Hispanic Station Index in New York City once the LPMs turn on this week.

“Our position is we acknowledge that the People Meter is a superior date collection tool than the current metered diary methodology,” said Univision senior vice president of corporate research Ceril Shagrin. “But because it’s a more precise tool, it is even more critical that it’s placed in a representative sample.

Univision claims Spanish-speaking 18- to 34-years-olds are grossly underrepresented in the LPM sample. That has the potential to negatively impact Univision, because its viewership is younger-skewing, with a median age of 34.4 years.

NIELSEN CONCESSION

Nielsen spokesman Jack Loftus acknowledged that “Univision is correct in saying that, for their purposes, the general-market sample in New York does not have enough young Hispanics who speak only Spanish, and thus are more likely to watch Spanish-language television.”

Nielsen is “working on that,” Loftus said. In the meantime, he said Nielsen’s NHSI service offers the company’s best estimate of Spanish-language viewers.

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