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Univision Deal Gives LPMs a Lift

6/10/2005 8:00 PM Eastern

Nielsen Media Research got a big boost — and a vote of confidence — for its Local People Meters last week, when Spanish-language broadcast giant Univision Communications Inc. reached a new deal for ratings that includes viewership data collected by the controversial methodology.

Univision was once a major opponent of LPMs. A number of broadcasters, such as News Corp., and Don’t Count Us Out, a coalition of black and Hispanic groups, still allege that LPMs undercount minority viewership.

The controversy rages on, and under pressure from stations, Nielsen recently delayed deployment of LPMs in Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia a month, until June 30.

LPMs Show Gains
Markets with largest increases in viewers, May 2005 versus May 2004, LPMs compared to paper diaries.
Source: Nielsen Media Research
San Francisco 18.6%
New York 9.1%
Chicago 1.4%
Los Angeles 0.5%
Markets with largest increase in number of channels watched
San Francisco 67%
New York 28%
Los Angeles 24%
Chicago 19%

34 STATIONS IN MIX

Under the new multimillion-dollar, long-term contract announced by Nielsen and Univision last week, Nielsen will provide local ratings for 34 Univision and TeleFutura owned-and-operated TV stations through its Nielsen Station Index and Nielsen Hispanic Station Index services, which include existing or pending LPM service in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Dallas and Philadelphia.

Back in June of last year Univision, complaining about the representation of Hispanics in the LPM sample, filed suit in Los Angeles seeking an injunction to bar Nielsen from launching the new meters in that DMA. In turn, Nielsen filed a counterclaim. A judge refused to stop the LPM rollout, which took place as scheduled last July.

In December, Univision and Nielsen reached a settlement of their pending litigation and both sides dropped their suits.

Both Univision, the No. l Spanish-language media company, and Nielsen have been working together to address concerns about LPMs, according to Univision senior vice president of corporate research Ceril Shagrin.

“Our issue with Nielsen has primarily been based on, how good is the sample?” Shagrin said. “And we have been working with Nielsen in terms of some of the initiatives they are planning on doing. …

“They’ve made commitments to improve the samples. Is it there yet? No. Do I think it’s going to get there? I’ve got confidence, otherwise we wouldn’t have signed the contract.”

NIELSEN ACTIONS CITED

In a missive to clients, Nielsen CEO Susan Whiting had spelled out some of the actions the ratings company is taking, “things like giving higher incentives to young households and Spanish-speaking households to get them not only to agree to be in the sample but to continue to be in the sample; improving how they coach the households in the use of the People Meter; adding field staff, adding more Spanish-speaking recruiters,” according to Shagrin.

“They probably have four or five things that have already been implemented, and another half a dozen things they have committed to test, and if the test is successful, implement,” she said. “And because they’ve made these commitments, not only to us but to the industry, because they’ve given us guarantee that they’re going to follow through with these commitments, we made to a commitment to them to say, 'We will financially support you, as we will continue to work with you.’ ”

Don’t Count Us Out representatives couldn’t be reached for comment.

Last week Nielsen provided full-month May demographic data from its LPMs in Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia, claiming that it represents better viewing information for those two markets.

In a press release, Nielsen pointed out that while the May LPM data can’t be used for buying and selling TV ads right now, it “shows that LPMs deliver more accurate and representative ratings than the meter-diaries they will replace.”

At least one Washington broadcaster, Allbritton Communications Co., immediately questioned Nielsen’s claims.

The ratings service pointed out that its LPM samples are larger and more representative than set-meter samples in the two DMAs in question.

For example, in Washington the size of the African-American household LPM sample was up 29% from set meters, from 113 to 146, while the Latino and Asian households went up 122% and 133%, respectively.

The ratings service also maintained that LPMs more accurately capture the diversity of what African American and Latino households are watching.

The broadcasters that called for a delay in the Washington LPM rollout were especially concerned about so-called “fault rates” with the LPMs.

Last week, Nielsen claimed that fault rates were lower in the LPM sample than in the set-meter sample. In Washington, the LPM metered nonpersons fault rate for African American households was 11.6%, versus 16.8% for the set-meter sample during the same period.

But Jerald Fritz, Allbritton’s senior vice president for legal and strategic affairs, challenged Nielsen’s assertions about the LPM fault rates, based on what he claimed was past experience.

“They play fast and loose with what they call the fault rates,” Fritz said. “You have to be very careful that they’re comparing apples to apples.”

FAULT RATES CITED

When comparing fault rates, Nielsen needs to look at not just “non-person” fault rates, which would reflect to technical problems with a meter, but to also compare personal fault rates, which have to do with people in a sample household not pressing the right buttons, according to Fritz.

“There is no data on the number of minorities not pushing the buttons,” Fritz said. “Those figures must necessarily be added to the set faults to get an accurate representation of how the LPM system is measuring the fault rates.”

He also pointed out that there is no mention of the relative faulting among minorities versus non-minorities. The broadcasters claim that with LPMs, African Americans and Hispanics are faulting at higher rates than non-minorities.

September