Nielsen Delays ‘LPMs’ in D.C., Philly

At the 11th hour, following pleas from 17 broadcast groups and the Media Rating Council, Nielsen Media Research is delaying the launch of “Local People Meters” in both Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia until the end of the month.

The LPM service, originally set to go live Thursday, will now officially be rolled out in those two DMAs June 30, Nielsen told clients in a brief memo Wednesday.

“This extension will allow for the comparison of demographic data from the May measurement period,” Nielsen said.

The ratings service had met with stiff opposition from the major TV stations in Washington over its slated LPM deployment.

Officials from Allbritton Communications Co., Fox Television, Gannett Television and Tribune Broadcasting Co. -- which collectively own six stations in Washington -- held a press conference last week to voice their opposition to the quick LPM launch.

Complaining about the fault rates among minorities, the stations wanted Nielsen to push back the LPM launch.

In addition, on the day of the press conference, May 25, more than one-dozen broadcast groups wrote a letter to Nielsen seeking the LPM postponement. Those station groups included not only Tribune, Allbritton, Fox and Gannett, but also Barrington Broadcasting Co., Belo Corp., CBS, Cox Television, Dispatch Broadcast Group, Emmis Communications Corp., E.W. Scripps Co., Fisher Communications Inc., Liberty Corp., LIN-TV, Media General Broadcast Group, NBC Universal Television Stations and Post-Newsweek Stations Inc.

During the press conference, the four D.C. broadcasters never mentioned the letter they and their cohorts had sent to Nielsen. The broadcasters put out a press release on their letter Tuesday.

In its announcement Wednesday, Nielsen said it will extend the “preliminary period” for LPMs until the end of the month, when it will then discontinue the existing “Metered Market” service in those two cities and solely use LPM data.

In its missive Wednesday, Nielsen reiterated its confidence in the LPM system, which has the support of Washington’s major cable operator, Comcast Corp.

“It is apparent that many of our clients in these markets require more time to understand the impact that this change in methodology will have on their businesses,” Nielsen said. “We see our LPM rollout schedule as part of our paramount duty to provide the most accurate and up-to-date information possible. Because we have no doubt that LPM technology is far superior to any existing alternative, we are anxious to establish it as the currency as soon as possible so that all users of this data will be able to take advantage of increased accuracy.”

The stations want Nielsen to wait until the MRC accredits the LPMs in Washington and Philadelphia before it launches them.

Officials at Comcast said they don’t object to Nielsen collecting data from both LPMs and the old “Metered/Diary” system for another month.

“In and itself, there’s nothing wrong with having them side-by-side,” Comcast Spotlight vice president of research Jonathan Sims said.

“This, by itself, is a rational request on the part of broadcasters,” he added. “In the past, there have been a lot of irrational requests. And the question is: Is this rational leading to the irrational, or is this rational leading to rational discussions? I think that’s the big question in our minds.”