Nielsen Wins Ruling In People Meter Case

A Federal judge in Miami ruled in favor of the Nielsen Co., which had been sued by Sunbeam Television, owner of WSVN-TV, for abusing its monopoly power over television ratings when it installed its new local people meter audience measurement system.

Sunbeam said it would appeal the ruling and would continue to pursue the other charges in its lawsuit, which allege that Nielsen has breached its contract with the station and engaged in unfair business practices.

"The Court held that Sunbeam failed to show that any competitor was ‘willing and able' to enter the local television ratings market in Miami and was excluded from that market by Nielsen," Nielsen said in a statement. "The Court also determined that Sunbeam could not prove that the current ratings for Sunbeam's local station WSVN are less accurate than they would be under a prospective competitor's methodology."

Sunbeam filed the anti-trust suit in 2009, claiming that Nielsen used its monopoly power to force stations to pay artificially high prices for a flawed ratings service.

When the new local people meter service was instituted, WSVN's audience as measured by Nielsen, fell by half, said Sunbeam owner Ed Ansin.

According to the lawsuit, "On October 1, 2008, over the objection of its television station customers in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale market, Nielsen unilaterally replaced its traditional Meter-Diary data collection system with a technology known as Local People Meters ("LPMs"). Although Nielsen falsely and deceptively touts LPMs as an improved technology that provides accurate ratings data, in fact there are serious problems with LPMs that are well-known to Nielsen."

The "unlawful conduct" by Nielsen cost sunbeam about $1 million per month in ad revenues and reduced the value of WSVN by $100 million, Sunbeam claimed.

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.