Nielsen Responds to Univision Lawsuit

NEW YORK Nielsen Media Research on Tuesday said it filed a response to the lawsuit brought by Univision Communications against the TV ratings firm earlier this month. Univision, the largest Spanish-language broadcaster, asked the Los Angeles State Superior Court for a preliminary injunction that would prevent Nielsen from launching its local people meter service in L.A. on July 8.

Nielsen’s response comes on the same day representatives of the Don’t Count Us Out coalition testify before the Los Angeles City Council. Although Univision is not part of the coalition of black and Hispanic organizations, the media company and a growing number of Nielsen’s largest paying clients, such as CBS and Tribune, and other groups such as the National Association of Broadcasters, have called on Nielsen to slow down the LPM rollout until it receives accreditation from the Media Rating Council. Despite the lack of accreditation in New York, Nielsen launched the LPM service on June 3.

According to Nielsen’s filing, Nielsen, which is owned by Adweek Magazines parent VNU, said Univision was attempting to block the use of a “modernized, improved and more accurate system” because of the ratings.

“Univision seeks to influence what should be an impartial system of measuring viewers, in order to maintain inflated, less accurate ratings for certain of its programs over those of its competitors whose ratings are rising,” said Nielsen in the filing.

Univision argued in its filing that Nielsen engaged in unfair, unlawful and deceptive business practices by launching the LPM service using flawed sampling and weighting methodologies. As part of its case, a declaration by Univision’s senior vp of corporate research Ceril Shagrin, who spent 27 years at Nielsen, contends that Nielsen’s L.A. sample contains 21 percent too many Hispanic homes in which only English is spoken and 40 percent too many homes in which mostly English is spoken and conversely, 37 percent too few homes in which only Spanish is spoken. The sample, said Shagrin, contains 22 percent too few homes in which the head of the household is 18-to-34 years-old and 7 percent too few Hispanic households with five or more family members.

Nielsen countered with a declaration from Paul Donato, the company’s senior vp and director of research, who characterized Univision’s comments as “false and misleading contentions about our LPM sample composition, our weighting procedures, and the differences between the ratings generated by the current system and LPM.”

“Although Univision challenges Nielsen’s LPM sample and its subcomponents, it ignores the fact that the sample and its subcomponents are larger and more adequate than those employed in the methodology used currently,” Donato said.

A hearing on the Univision suit is expected to be scheduled on or around July 1.