It is seeking relief for what it claims is the failure of Nielsen’s new Local People Meter ratings system to accurately count the audience of WSVN, its Miami Fox affiliate, especially minority viewers.
Sunbeam Television Corp., owner of WSVN, the Fox affiliate in Miami (DMA 16) filed a complaint today against Nielsen Media Research Inc. in federal court in Florida, seeking to restore competition in the market for TV ratings.
Sunbeam alleges that Nielsen violated federal and state antitrust laws, as well as Florida’s Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act, by unlawfully maintaining and perpetuating its monopoly in the TV-ratings market.
Sunbeam said that since Nielsen is widely recognized as the dominant provider of TV ratings in the United States and is virtually synonymous with TV ratings, “television stations such as WSVN are left with no choice but to purchase Nielsen’s ratings in order to market air time to advertisers.”
Sunbeam alleges that Nielsen has abused its monopoly position by charging artificially high prices; offering inferior and flawed ratings services in a take-it-or-leave-it basis; and engaging in exclusionary tactics to prevent competitors from gaining a foothold in the industry.
Sunbeam cites Nielsen’s implementation of the Local People Meter (“LPM”) ratings technology in the Miami-Ft. Lauderdale market as “yet another example of Nielsen’s ability and willingness to abuse its monopoly position.”
Nielsen’s LPM technology, Sunbeam says, “has been controversial since it was first rolled out because it has been shown to produce flawed data, particularly in ethnically diverse markets. Nielsen has repeatedly been warned by minority groups, the industry accreditation organization and even Congress to take steps to ensure the accuracy of this system, and get it accredited, before rolling it out in new markets.”
And Sunbeam claims that Nielsen “has even acknowledged that fault rates of certain demographic groups participating in Nielsen’s LPM panels, including African-American and Hispanic households, are high. Nonetheless, Nielsen went ahead with a flawed implementation of LPM’s as the sole ratings technology in the Miami-Ft. Lauderdale market — a very urban market — in October 2008.”
Nielsen’s LPM’s, say Sunbeam, “have produced flawed data that, among other things, has failed to adequately count minority groups, a very important component of WSVN’s viewership. The results are unfair to minority viewers, and have had a devastating impact on WSVN’s ratings.”
Sunbeam alleges that Nielsen would not have been able to engage in these practices in a competitive market in which there was a choice of service providers.