Nielsen Reveals LPM Data for D.C., Philly

WASHINGTON To bolster the rollout of its local people meter service in Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia, Nielsen Media Research has released another round of viewing data from its local people meter panels in the two markets.

The data released Monday show TV viewing is up 10 percent in Washington and 11 percent in Philadelphia. Daytime viewing is up, but prime-time and access is down, consistent with the results from other LPM markets. Among African Americans total-day viewing was 10 percent higher in Washington and 16 percent higher in Philadelphia. In Washington, total-day viewing among Latinos was unchanged, but 15 percent lower in Philadelphia.

Nielsen, owned by Adweek parent VNU, said the ratings under LPM “would be more accurate than ever before” since the sample is more representative and response rates are higher.

But broadcasters, including Albritton Communications, Tribune, Fox Television and a number of other groups which late last week requested a meeting with the MRC Board, aren’t buying Nielsen’s dazzling display of data, which includes data for African Americans that won’t even be available to stations for one month.

“The point they’re making isn’t the point we’re making. Our big problem is with the fault rates and the sample. African Americans, Hispanics, large households and young households are faulting more. Maybe TV is up, but that says nothing about the people pressing the buttons,” said Jerald Fritz, senior vp of legal and strategic affairs for Albritton Communications, owners of ABC affiliate WJLA and cable News Chanel 8.

Since Nielsen met with broadcasters earlier this month, Nielsen agreed to accelerate its efforts to improve fault rates by dispatching more people in the field to instruct panelists on how to push buttons.

“Whether Nielsen has done that or how successful those efforts are isn’t reflected in the numbers Nielsen has published. Who knows if June 30 will be enough time [to improve the fault rates]. Given Nielsen’s history, I’m not sanguine,” Fritz noted. “In New York, it’s been a year and fault rates still haven’t been fixed. We’ve asked Nielsen to wait for Media Rating accreditation, but Nielsen said no.”

Nielsen, which told broadcasters the MRC mediation process to resolve disputes with its customers was “unnecessarily cumbersome and time consuming,” has yet to achieve full MRC accreditation for its LPM markets in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. (It has full accreditation in Boston and San Francisco.)

“This isn’t about viewing levels or people meters. It’s about whether the process which was set up 40 years ago is being frustrated by Nielsen’s unwillingness to fix problems that are raised by the MRC,” said Tom Herwitz, president of station operations for Fox Television. “The MRC hasn’t analyzed [in Washington and Phildelphia] whether the service meets minimum standards for ratings accuracy. In New York, the MRC has looked at the LPM service three times and said it’s not ready.”