Ratings Startups Suing Nielsen For Antitrust

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Another opponent is taking on TV-ratings titan Nielsen Media Research.

Last week a new TV-ratings provider, which gathers viewership data from set-tops, and its sister company filed an antitrust suit against Nielsen, charging that the veteran ratings provider's “monopoly” has resulted in a distorted view of what millions of Americans are watching.

Bradenton, Fla.-based media-research company erinMedia LLC and ReacTV, an interactive-gaming network, sued Nielsen in U.S. District Court in St. Petersburg, Fla., seeking to void Nielsen's staggered long-term contracts with TV networks and to bar it from buying competitors.

“It [the suit] was the most immediate way of implementing change in this industry,” said Frank Maggio, chairman and CEO of erinMedia and founder and CEO of ReacTV.

The new interactive set-top technologies erinMedia uses to gather viewership data, now in trials with some MSOs, supersede Nielsen's “outmoded” sampling methods and allow for each viewer to be counted, the company claims.

Maggio, a Florida real-estate developer, said he went to court because “we think this whole topic needs to be vetted out in a public forum.”

Nielsen called the suit a “frivolous complaint” that “is completely unfounded.”

In a statement, Nielsen said: “There is absolutely nothing about our contracts that prevents erinMedia or any other company from offering a ratings service, or that precludes our clients from using another service. We are very confident that this meritless lawsuit will fail.”

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