Nielsen told clients Thursday (June 4) it would have to reissue several months of ratings for the ABC affiliate serving the Birmingham, Ala. market. The stations, WCFT on the east side of the market and WJSU on the west, which simulcast as WBMA+, went for almost an entire year without viewing credit for its digital viewers. As a result, Nielsen will reissue ratings reported between May 26, 2008 and March 23, 2009.
Ratings for other stations in the market were unaffected, Nielsen said in a client notice.
Nielsen, which measures the market with set-top tuning meters, attributed the snafu to a procedural error, which excluded the tuning audience to the digital simulcasts and reported only the analog tuning audience.
It's a costly mistake for the Allbritton-owned stations. Mike Murphy, president and general manager of the WBMA+, estimated that the financial impact to the station's revenue could be as much as 20 percent.
Murphy first noticed the problem about 16-18 months ago when Nielsen began installing its A/P meters in the market and the station's numbers for Oprah and early news dropped by half.
"At this point, we're doing as much research as we can to determine how many digital-only viewers they were," said Murphy said. "We pay [Nielsen] a tremendous amount of money to give us accurate ratings, and they didn't. This is scary for all TV stations, because it makes us lose faith," he said.
Mediaweek is a unit of the Nielsen Co.