Nielsen Releases New York Data

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Nielsen Media Research had yet more ammunition to fire off Tuesday in its battle with various minority activist groups, politicians and Fox over its "Local People Meters."

First there was the DVD sent to those same groups Monday--plus the press--explaining/promoting the Local People Meter. Then there was the news that Nielsen had contracted with a Latino research company to study the study its foes claimed documented minority underreporting by the meters.

Last, at least for Tuesday we were assured, was the release of an analysis of New York People Meter data that showed that minorities were spending a lot more time watching cable networks than other methods revealed.

It is the first time that the New York information has been released publicly. Although Nielsen has not yet gone live with the New York meters, they have been in place and providing preliminary data since February.

It was Nielsen's sharing of that data with clients that helped prompt the opposition to meters and the delay of the New York rollout. Currently a coalition of groups is trying block a similar L.A. launch scheduled for July.

Nielsen claims that the meters' "underreporting" of broadcast viewership its opponents allege is instead the more accurate reporting of the allocation of those viewers to other media.

"The data in no way suggest that African Americans or Latinos are undercounted by the Local People Meter service," said Nielsen President Susan Whiting in announcing the analysis Tuesday. "What they show is that the way these and other viewers watch TV is changing along with the industry itself."

For example, said Nielsen, the Local People Meter shows 54.2% of African American viewing time in New York was to cable, while the paper diary system showed only 39.2%. For Latinos, it was 43.8% of time spent with cable according to the People Meter, compared to 34.6% with diaries.

Fox, which would lose viewership to its New York stations under the People Meter, has lobbied against the rollout of the meters, but a number of outlets stand to gain. Nielsen says that the meters found more viewing to minority-targeted nets, including BET, Telemundo and Telefutura, as well as additional viewing to Starz, ESPN and Pax.

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