For the first time, Nielsen Media Research has "delisted" a TV station for targeting Nielsen families during a sweeps promotion. But rival station executives suggested that the measure was negated by a too weak punishment.
Tribune's KSWB-TV San Diego was delisted after the ratings service concluded that it engaged in activities "designed to influence or change the viewing habits of Nielsen Media Research sample panel members in the San Diego DMA" (B & C, Nov. 13).
Just before the sweeps, KSWB - TV mailed out about 75,000 videotapes with a card that read: "ATTENTION NIELSEN HOMES: Please watch KSWB 5/69. Diary homes, please write down KSWB 5/69 in your Nielsen diary. Thanks to all Nielsen homes for watching KSWB 5/69."
A promo aired in early sweeps said: "Attention Nielsen family households, you're watching KSWB 5/69. Please write it down in your Nielsen diary." The promos brought protests from outraged executives at San Diego TV stations, who called the campaign a blatant violation of Nielsen practices and demanded action.
Nielsen, which had announced a crackdown on such actions during the sweeps (B & C, Nov. 20), issued a client notice last week. Delisting could cost a station dearly, because, station execs say, ad agencies won't buy ads without ratings. But while KSWB-TV data will not be included in the Viewers in Profile book, household and demographic information will be available for the station's use and in a custom tape. Tribune does not expect station revenues to be adversely affect and defended General Manager Lise Markham.
KSWB-TV rivals agreed that Tribune might not suffer much from the purported punishment, but some disagreed that that was a good thing. Local station execs also wondered whether Nielsen considered Tribune's stature as a large and important station group in softening the punishment.
Nielsen denied that. "This action speaks for itself," said spokesman Jack Loftus. "Our objective was to make the point but not disadvantage the entire marketplace."