News

Nielsen Delivers A Deep Dish Dip

8/08/2008 8:00 PM Eastern

Many cable networks saw their Nielsen distribution numbers drop anywhere from 200,000 to 1 million homes after the measurement company adjusted its figures for Dish Network this year, officials said last week.

Nielsen said it is still working to solve the issue and nail down a way to more accurately track cable-network distribution in direct broadcast satellite homes, where subscribers have a choice of many different programming packages.

REVEALED ON CROWN CALL

The fact that Nielsen had revamped its “universe estimates” for many networks — due mainly to problems tallying Dish Network's subscriber counts for individual networks — came up during Crown Media Holdings second-quarter conference call last week.

Crown Media is the parent of Hallmark Channel, and CEO Henry Schleiff told analysts last Wednesday that at the end of the second quarter, the family friendly network had 83.2 million subscribers, an increase of nearly 650,000 homes compared with a year ago

“We achieved this increase notwithstanding the loss of approximately 1 million subs in the period January to June, due largely to a Nielsen adjustment correcting their overstatement of the number of EchoStar subscribers, which impacted all fully distributed channels,” Schleiff said.

In the beginning of 2008, EchoStar Communications split into satellite service Dish Network and hardware business EchoStar.

40 NETWORKS AFFECTED

Because of Nielsen's adjustment, roughly 40 cable networks saw their Nielsen distribution numbers decrease anywhere from about 200,000 homes to just over 1 million homes from January to July. Most of that overstatement related to Dish Network, a Nielsen spokeswoman said.

“In the past we used a method which looked at the 'package' that the household received,” Nielsen said in a statement. “If a household received the package we would say that all the networks that were listed for that package were receivable. Now we are checking the receivability of every set in the home and recording the channels and networks that are received. This has led to some declines in coverage for some of the networks.”

Nielsen recently did a presentation on the issue to the Committee on National Cable Audience Measurement, CONCAM.

Nielsen has been working to resolve the problem, and in fact its carriage numbers for a number of cable networks that had declined earlier this year have increased in August, the Nielsen official said.

“In August we did show increases for many networks that had declined during the April to July period,” the Nielsen spokeswoman said.

Dish Network declined to comment.

September