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Fort Myers Stations Sign With Comscore, Claiming Undercount by Nielsen

(Image credit: WXCW)

Comscore said it reached an agreement with Sun Broadcasting to provide its three stations in Fort.Myers, Florida with local TV measurement.

Sun president Jim Schwartzel has been getting ratings from Nielsen on and off for years, but said Nielsen’s panel is too small and does not accurately represent viewing in the market.

Fort Myers Broadcasting, which owns CBS affiliate WINK-TV, and is run by Joe Schwartzel, Jim’s father, signed up with Comscore last month.

“Surveying 400 households is not large enough to capture fragmented viewing in a large and diverse market,” Schwartzel said, adding that Nielsen’s panel has been smaller than that recently because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a statement, Nielsen said it accurately measures the Fort Myers market.

Sun’s main station, CW affiliate WXCW-TV, is not carried by AT&T’s DirecTV or Dish Network, but a disproportionately high number of sample homes are satellite subscribers with 23%, Schwartzel said. “In reality they’re less than 15%,” he said. 

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In Southwestern Florida, many people live in master planned communities that contract with cable companies or cable overbuilders for bulk TV service for all of their residents, but Nielsen’s methodology doesn’t take that into account, Schwartzel added. The two biggest overbuilders have more subscribers than Dish and DirecTV, he said, but are just 2% of the Nielsen panel homes. WXCW is carried by the cable companies.

“I’m concerned that Nielsen is overly measuring the [satellite] providers--and those have been losing subscribers at enormous rates all over the place--but Nielsen does not reflect that in our market,” he said. “They’re sampling my competitors with more sample than they deserve and then conversely of the systems that I am on and competing with my competitors, they are undersampling.”

By contrast, Comscore’s measurement in the market starts with data from Comcast cable subscriber’s set top boxes. “They showed me the difference between our station in Comscore and our station in Nielsen, they’re just night and day,” Schwartzel said. “It’s almost 400% higher.”

Another Nielsen technique, viewer assignment, also hurts WXCW’s ratings. Nielsen uses viewer behavior in nearby larger markets with people meters to fill in the blanks in smaller markets. But Schwartzel said his stations run news from CBS affiliate WINK-TV and other good programming in time periods when big market stations are running the lower-rated programming like The 700 Club. Viewers in Ft. Myers also have shorter commutes than viewers in major metropolitan areas so they’re home in front of the TV more, he adds. 

Sun also owns the local Univision and Azteca television affiliates as well. The No. 1 radio station in the market is Spanish language, but the TV stations barely show up in Nielsen, Schwartzel said. With Comscore, the Univision affiliate is the No. 4 station in the the market, according to Comscore, he said.

"We’ve pointed out flaws to Nielsen in their system, but they can’t change it just for me,” he said. “We look forward to using Comscore to more accurately purchase syndicated programming, adjusting our schedules, accurately targeting on-air promotional campaigns and design highly effective advertising schedules with our local agency and advertising partners.”

In its statement, Nielsen said it accurately measures the Fort Myers DMA and is committed to fully representative samples of the population.

“As the only measurement provider of persons-level data, we are confident that all populations are accurately represented in our panels," Nielsen said. "Over the past years, we have made significant investments to innovate and transform how Local TV is measured. By combining our advanced meter technology, big data and panels we are providing local broadcasters with complete, in-depth and accurate metrics that are representative of local viewing behaviors. We look forward to working with all broadcasters to ensure they have a complete understanding of our data and methodology."