Antitrust Suit vs. Nielsen Still Alive

A federal judge has refused to dismiss an antitrust suit filed against Nielsen Media Research by erinMedia Inc., a start-up TV-ratings provider that collects viewership data from set-tops.

But in her ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bucklew in Tampa, Fla., did throw out the half of the antitrust case brought by ReacTV LLC, an interactive-gaming network.

ErinMedia and ReacTV are owned by Frank Maggio, a Florida real estate developer, and both companies jointly filed suit against Nielsen in June.

In her 12-page decision, the judge found that erinMedia is prepared to enter the TV-ratings market, which, it alleged, Nielsen is monopolizing. In addition, the judge said, erinMedia has made claims of injuries that are protected by federal and state antitrust laws.

Nielsen had asked the court to dismiss the entire antitrust suit. And while Bucklew said erinMedia has enough grounds for the matter to go to trial, the judge agreed with Nielsen that ReacTV has no standing and is not a proper plaintiff.

The judge’s ruling was rendered Nov. 17, but erinMedia issued a press release on it Tuesday.

“This ruling by the court is a clear and undisputable victory for erinMedia and, ultimately, for the TV industry and the American people,” chairman Maggio said in a prepared statement. “We are anxious to move quickly forward to begin the process of digging into the evidence that will prove that the Nielsen monopoly has stifled competition and innovation to the detriment of erinMedia, other potential competitors, the U.S. advertising industry and other consumers in this market.”

In its statement, Nielsen charged that erinMedia is using the lawsuit and the media to gain the market’s attention. The veteran ratings company also said it is confident that it will win on the merits of the case.

In its lawsuit, erinMedia alleged that Nielsen’s “monopoly” has created a distorted view of what millions of Americans are watching on TV, and it seeks to void Nielsen’s staggered long-term contracts with TV networks.