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ReacTV: Nielsen Won’t Sell Us Ratings

ReacTV, the interactive-gaming network that debuts next month, is crying foul, charging that Nielsen Media Research is refusing to sell it ratings data.

The network is owned by Florida real estate entrepreneur Frank Maggio, who also owns erinMedia, a would-be Nielsen rival that has two lawsuits pending against the dominant player in tracking TV viewership (www.multichannel.com/article/CA6298677.html?display=Breaking+News). Maggio has been a vocal critic of Nielsen, accusing it of being a monopoly and attacking the accuracy of its audience measurement.

ReacTV -- which launches the week of Aug. 8 on the Bright House Networks system in Tampa, Fla. -- approached Nielsen about subscribing to ratings data. But the network charged that Nielsen refused to sell it the data.

“We are being denied access to the coin of the realm,” Maggio said Wednesday.

Nielsen general manager of national services Sara Erichson July 20 left ReacTV president Noreen Parker a voice mail outlining the company’s reason for not doing business with the new interactive cable network.

“Given the public statements made by your owner that Nielsen service cannot provide adequate audience information about ReacTV viewers, as well as public disparaging remarks that [Maggio] has made about our services, as well the management at Nielsen at the time, we don’t think it is appropriate to commence a business relationship with ReacTV,” Erichson said.

Nielsen spokesman Jack Loftus declined to comment on specifics regarding the dispute, saying, “The only relationship we have with Frank Maggio is through our lawyers. All of our issues relating to him are in the court, and they’re being handled by our lawyers.”

Maggio, chairman and CEO of ReacTV, said he is planning to take his dispute with Nielsen to the Federal Communications Commission and the Media Rating Council.

ReacTV does have a letter from Nielsen’s lawyers that “mirrors” what Erichson said, according to Maggio.

He pointed out that News Corp.’s Fox TV stations have been vocal critics of Nielsen, and that Spanish-language network Univision even sued Nielsen, yet they both continued to get viewership data from the ratings service.

“As far as I know, I’m not the first, and nor will I be the last, to disparage their products,” Maggio said. “And I’ve always stated for the record that Nielsen as of right now is the currency of television, so I do not believe they have the right to discriminate against a company owned by an outspoken opponent of their products.”

He alleged that Nielsen is abusing its power.