NEW YORK The controversy over Nielsen Media Research's rollout of local people meters has moved into the courts. Univision Communications on Thursday said it has filed a lawsuit in the Superior Court of the State of California against the TV ratings firm's July 8 launch of the LPM service in Los Angeles.
Amid a growing chorus of protests and criticism from various groups and media companies (including some Nielsen clients), and despite the Media Rating Council's decision not to accredit the LPM service in New York, Nielsen launched the LPM in that market on June 3.
In its complaint, Univision alleges that Nielsen, which is owned by Adweek Magazines parent company VNU, has engaged in unfair, unlawful and deceptive business practices by launching the LPM service in Los Angeles using flawed sampling and weighting methodologies.
The Spanish-language media company also claims Nielsen has engaged in false and misleading advertising and promotion of its LPM sample and weighting methodologies to both customers and the public, harming Univision's relationships with advertisers and giving false credibility to the LPM sample. Finally, Univision seeks damages for trade libel.
"Nielsen data is the only industry measuring tool that is available to guide advertisers in placing their television dollars, and where those dollars get placed directly affects the ability of television networks and stations to develop and air quality information and entertainment programming for their audiences," said Ray Rodriguez, president of the Univision Television Network. "The sample and the weighting technique currently employed in Nielsen's proposed Los Angeles LPM system, just as in its New York LPM system, will result in a seriously flawed measuring tool and, as a result, Hispanic media and the Hispanic community in general will be unfairly prejudiced."
A Nielsen representative said the company does not comment on litigation.
Univision said Nielsen's own data shows that its LPM sample is fundamentally flawed because it dramatically undercounts young Hispanic persons and large Hispanic families, and it overstates Hispanic American households that speak mostly or only English.
"It is imperative that Nielsen take responsibility for fairness and accuracy of its methodologies and take immediate action to repair its LPM sample before implementation," said Ceril Shagrin, senior vp of corporate research for Univision.
Nielsen did not have MRC accreditation in 2002 when it launched the first LPM service in Boston. The major network affiliate stations boycotted the service for several months until the service was accredited.
In a separate action, on June 9, the cable industry's research group agreed with broadcasters and called on Nielsen to gain accreditation from the Media Rating Council before rolling out LPMs in additional markets and before those local markets are integrated into the national sample.
"It is critical that all new local people meter markets meet established standards before being integrated into the national people meter sample. Because of our concern, we are asking you to include only LPM panels in the national sample that have been audited and accredited by the MRC," wrote Ira Sussman, vp of research for the Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau in a letter to Susan Whiting, president and CEO of Nielsen.
Several broadcasters, including Viacom's CBS, Tribune and NBC, have made similar pleas to the TV ratings firm. Univision is the only broadcaster to have actually filed suit.