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6/03/2005 08:00:00 PM Eastern
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Local Meters Delayed in D.C. and Philly

Signs of Life At L.A.'s KCBS

Local Meters Delayed in D.C. and Philly

After intense pressure from local broadcasters, Nielsen Media Research is delaying the launch of its local-people-meter (LPM) ratings system in Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia until the end of the month. It's a small victory for broadcasters, but their larger concerns over LPMs still remain.

Washington and Philadelphia were slated to become the sixth and seventh LPM markets on June 2. Nielsen says the month-long stay will give it more time to study the impact of the new technology.

But that postponement came days after 17 station groups banded together and called for a break in further launches until the LPMs receive full approval from the Media Ratings Council (MRC), which is the official auditor overseeing ratings systems. So far, the MRC has granted full accreditation to only two LPM markets—Boston and San Francisco—with New York, Chicago and Los Angeles yet to receive full approval. Atlanta, Dallas and Detroit are scheduled to get LPMs next.

Station execs say LPM ratings for minorities and young viewers have dipped and fault rates (viewers not responding at all) have increased.

In a letter to Nielsen Chief Executive Susan Whiting, Tribune Broadcasting President Pat Mullen, acting as spokesperson for the group, appealed to the ratings giant to adhere to the MRC's own recommendation that it wait for accreditation before implementing new LPMs. “Accurate and reliable viewing data are the bedrock of the television agency,” Mullen wrote.

Nielsen did not directly respond to that request, but the delay was obviously a gesture acknowledging the stations' concern.

Mullen is pleased with the delays but says the big issues remain. “We all understand the impact of new methodology. We've been asking Nielsen to fix the problems. If they can show me several months of improved sample and declining fault rates, then I will be a supporter.”

Tom Herwitz, president of station operations for Fox Television Stations, concurs. “The interests of our viewers and our advertisers are best-served by having ratings that accurately reflect actual viewership.” Fox has been one of the most vocal opponents of LPMs.

But several of the station groups protesting—among them LIN Television, Post-Newsweek and Emmis Communications—don't have outlets in LPM markets. Alan Frank, CEO of Post-Newsweek, says he champions a fair system: “It is absolutely essential that our rating services be as accurate as can be. This is not something you can fix as you go along. There is too much at stake.”

Signs of Life At L.A.'s KCBS

In the midst of a three-year overhaul, Viacom-owned KCBS Los Angeles is moving up. In May, the CBS station, for years a local-news laggard, edged out KABC for second place in weekday late news in households and adults 25-54. KCBS averaged a 2.3 rating/ 8 share in households and a 2.2/9 in 25-54s, versus KABC's 2.1/7 and 1.9/8, respectively.

KABC got help from Sunday-night powerhouse Desperate Housewives. With weekend newscasts factored in, KABC edged out KCBS in households (2.3/8 to 2.2/8). The two still tied in the demo ratings with a 2.1/9.

KNBC, the late-news leader, maintained its top position in May with a 2.9/12 in households and 3.2/12 in the 25-54 demo in weeknight Nielsens.

KCBS recently added former KABC weatherman Johnny Mountain to its late-news team, with sports anchor Jim Hill and news anchors Paul Magers and Laura Diaz. The station also gets help from co-owned independent KCAL. KCBS should get stronger this fall: To help set up its news, KCBS poached Dr. Phil from KNBC. And the station has ratcheted up promotion throughout the day. Says President/GM Don Corsini, “We've made some crucial investments, and we are beginning to see the returns.”

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