Nielsen Touts D.C., Philly LPM Results

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Nielsen Media Research went on the defensive Monday, releasing select May ratings data from Philadelphia and Washington that it argues shows the new Local People Meter measurement system is superior to the old paper diary/set-top meter system.

At least one top Fox station exec. said the numbers were too select to tell the whole story, and continued to oppose the roll-out without full accreditation.

Nielsen was slated to convert the two markets to LPMs June 2, but opted for a 30-day delay after local stations and broadcast station groups protested that the systems -- as well as future LPMs -- should not be introduced before receiving full approval from the Media Ratings Council, an independent auditor of Nielsen ratings.

Nielsen did not respond to the request for MRC pre-approval, but has rolled out in other markets, most notably New York, with conditional approval.

Broadcasters have expressed concern that results from LPMs yield lower ratings from minority groups, younger viewers, and large families due to high fault rates.

Philadelphia and Washington are now scheduled to convert to LPMs June 30.

Nielsen says the new system's larger sample size and continuous electronic monitoring make it "a significantly more accurate ratings system," adding that "LPMs do a better job measuring all demographics groups, including people of color and hard-to-reach young audiences."

Nielsen says the LPMs are yielding superior results in both cities. C

Comparing May data from the old and new systems, Nielsen released the following information:

- Fault rates (viewers not responding) were lower among the total sample and African-American HHs. In Washington, Nielsen says the meter HH fault rate was 8.2%, compared to 10.7% for set-top meters, and the African-American meter fault rate was 11.6% with LPMs, compared to 16.8% on set-top meters.

-In Philadelphia, Nielsen says the HH meter fault rate dropped to 8.3% under LPMs, compared to 9.8% on set-top meters. Among African American households, meter fault rate was 11.4% with LPMs, compared to 20.2% on the set-top meters. (Nielsen did not provide data on fault rates for other minority groups, including Hispanics, young viewers or large families).- The sample size in both cities is larger, up from 439 in Washington to 609, and from 510 to 809 in Philadelphia.- Minority sample sizes are larger. In Washington, African American households increased from 113 to 146, Latino households increased from 23 to 51, and Asian-American households increased from 15 to 35. In Philadelphia, African American households moved up from 104 to 166, Latino households moved up from 21 to 47, and Asian American households moved up from 13 to 22.-  Response rates were better in both cities, 37.9% in Washington, compared to 29.9% for the set-meters and, in Philadelphia, 36.1%, compared to 32.3% under the old system.Nielsen also says the LPMs report increased television usage in both markets among total viewers and adults 18-49 across dayparts. That extended to broadcast and cable networks, Nielsen says.

The ratings giant says LPMs also indicate African American households in both cities are watching more television, particularly in early morning and daytime.

Nielsen did not provide similar information for other minorities.

Tom Herwitz, president of station operations for Fox Television Stations, said there was some interesting information in the Nielsen numbers, but pointed to Nielsen's comparison of meter-to-meter fault rates, rather than total fault rates, for the two systems, saying that is a crucial omission.

Fault rates have been a key issue in the criticism of D.C. TV stations over the roll-out.

"Once again, Nielsen doesn't include the one piece of information that the Media Ratings Council, which has for years raised concerns about faulting, looks at, which is the total fault rate and the differences between different ethnic and demographic groups.

"And here in Washington, Nielsen consistently has been 100% higher in faulting in Hispanics and significantly higher among African Americans,and younger households," he says.

"In New York a year later, faulting still is at those kinds of terrible levels," he said "so how can Nielsen start these new markets without accreditation and without the old markets fixed."

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