Univision Sues to Stop LPMs

The fight over the controversial rollout of Local People Meters escalated last week, as Spanish-language broadcaster Univision Communications Inc. went to court to stop Nielsen Media Research from launching the new system in Los Angeles next month.

Univision filed suit in a California state court seeking an injunction against the LPM rollout, just days after Nielsen announced its long-awaited 11 appointments to a task force on the measurement of TV viewing by minorities.

The panel, which will be chaired by former U.S. Rep. Cardiss Collins (D-Ill.), was chosen in consultation with U.S. Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.). It includes community leaders and TV industry executives from New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, all DMAs where Nielsen has launched or plans to launch LPMs this year.

The New York rollout took place in early June, setting off a firestorm of controversy with Hispanic and black groups, lead by the coalition Don’t Count Us Out — as well as broadcasters such as Univision, News Corp. and CBS — who claim the new system undercounts viewing by minorities.

Univision not only wants to stop Nielsen from proceeding with the July 8 LPM deployment in Los Angeles, it wants to bar the ratings company from allegedly making false claims about data it gets from the new meters and wants payment for damages from “trade libel” stemming from purported LPM data errors.

“The claims in this suit have no merit, in either law or fact, and we intend to fight them,” Nielsen said in a response. “We stand firmly behind our Los Angeles sample and our proven methodology. People Meters have been in use since 1987 and have proved to be the most accurate and complete way of measuring television viewing by the diverse groups who make up our communities.

“People Meters do a better job of representing what people are watching on TV and they in no way prejudice any viewer group.”

Univision’s lawsuit contends Nielsen’s LPM sample is flawed in that “it contains too few young Hispanic-Americans, too few large Hispanic-American households, and too many Hispanic-American households that speak mostly or only English.”

If Nielsen launches LPMs in Los Angeles, Univision claimed it would “suffer a substantial and irreparable loss in its reputation when the LPM service’s inaccurate and deflated ratings become public currency. It will also immediately lose both advertisers and substantial revenue, as advertisers respond to dramatic ratings drops.”

A July 1 hearing was set for the suit.