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Mar 22, 2004  •  Post A Comment

Nielsen Stalls Rollout of People Meter Service in Los Angeles, Chicago

Nielsen Media Research notified clients Monday that it will delay roll-out of its People Meter service in Los Angeles and Chicago until July and August, respectively, because of sample problems in both cities. However, Nielsen’s decision to launch the new measurement service scheduled on April 8 in New York, drew quick criticism from News Corp. which cited “growing evidence that the measurement’s methodology is flawed.

In a statement, Lachlan Murdoch, deputy chief operating officer of News Corp. and chairman of the Fox Television Stations Group, said that in January, News Corp. had “encouraged Nielsen to look closely at several serious issues associated with their People Meter. We were concerned that People Meter could undercount viewership by as much as 25 percent, especially when quantifying viewership among minority and young viewers.”

“If the meter isn’t good enough for Los Angeles and Chicago yet, it certainly isn’t good enough for the national’s largest market,” Mr. Murdoch said. “Properly designed and used, the people meter can be an efficient and reliable measurement tool. As presently formulated, it is not. Until Nielsen can prove the accuracy of its numbers, particularly in counting young and African-American viewers, we risk implementing a seriously flawed system.”

Nielsen spokesman Jack Loftus said that the data cited, but not publicly detailed, by News Corp. is “flat out wrong.” Mr. Loftus also said that there have been “no surprises” in comparisons of parallel runs of the newly installed People Meters in New York to data collected from diaries and older meters.

Nielsen’s notification of the roll-out delays said that in Los Angeles, “some of the sample characteristics … do not yet meet our quality standards” and that while progress has been made, the ratings service feels it is best to wait until after the May sweeps to change methodology.

In Chicago, said Nielsen, “we will not meet our timetable for introducing the second replicate of households in March.”

ABC’s ‘D.A.’ Underwhelms: ABC’s “The D.A.” had a disappointing debut Friday night, scoring a third-place 2.0/6 in adults 18 to 49 — 35 percent below the network’s 10 p.m. to 11 p.m. time period average over the previous four weeks, according to Nielsen Media Research. It scored a third-place 6.9 million total viewers, beaten by CBS’s NCAA basketball coverage and a repeat of NBC’s “Crossing Jordan.”

The second week of Fox’s “Wonderfalls” was about the same as last week with a 1.6/5 vs. 1.8/5 in adults 18 to 49, while the second episode of its lead-in “Playing it Straight” was down 19 percent to a 1.7/6 from a 2.1/7.

CBS Answers Criticism Over ’60 Minutes’ Interview: In response to criticism that Sunday night’s CBS “60 Minutes” interview with former White House terrorist adviser Dick Clarke did not note the corporate familial connection between CBS and Simon & Schuster, the publisher of Mr. Clarke’s book, the network released a statement Monday afternoon that said: “’60 Minutes’ has interviewed authors from virtually all the book publishing companies over its 36 seasons and is beholden to none of them. Publishers seek out ’60 Minutes’ because it is television’s No. 1 newsmagazine.”

Mr. Clarke’s book, “Against All Enemies,” which is critical of the Bush administration’s priorities in the wars on terrorism and Iraq, is published by Free Press, a subsidiary of Simon & Schuster, which, like CBS, is owned by Viacom. The CBS News magazine also did not note the corporate family connection earlier this year during an interview with former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill, who also criticized the Bush administration in “The Price of Loyalty,” another book published by Simon & Schuster.

“60 Minutes'” general practice is not to mention publishers, according to people who are familiar with the newsmagazine, who say it was not making exceptions for books published within the Viacom empire.

However, many news organizations by policy mention corporate or personal connections to subjects of stories to avoid the appearance of conflict of interest.

But there was no sign that CBS News or its powerful newsmagazine was reconsidering its practice after Internet gossip Matt Drudge noted on Monday the connection that was not apparent Sunday night to viewers.

Univision Names New CFO: Spanish-language broadcasting titan Univision Communications said Monday it has named Jeffrey T. Hinson executive VP and chief financial officer, as former CFO George Blank steps down in part to spend more time with his family. He will report to Univision Chairman and CEO A. Jerrold Perenchio.

Mr. Hinson, 49, was senior VP and CFO of Univision Radio, and before that held the same post at Hispanic Broadcasting Corp., which Univision acquired last September.

For his part, Mr. Blank will remain at the Los Angeles-based company to help with the transition and work on special projects. A person familiar with the company said Mr. Blank wanted to spend more time with his family in Florida.

Fox Picks Up ‘Shore’: Fox has given an early pickup to drama series “The North Shore.” The network ordered 12 episodes of the 20th Century Fox-produced series. It is Fox’s first drama pickup of the year and follows its first comedy series pickup last week for the untitled Method Man/Redman project. “North Shore” will likely get an early start in the summer, much like “The O.C.” did last year. It is set in a high-end beach hotel in Hawaii and will focus on the relationships between the hotel staff and guests. Rob Estes stars. Chris Brancato and Bert Salke are on board as executive producers and showrunners, joining writer Peter Ekloff and director Peyton Reed. Kevin Falls also executive produced the pilot, but he had signed on only for the pilot.

Famke Janssen to Join ‘Nip/Tuck’: Actress Famke Janssen (“GoldenEye,” “X-Men”) will guest star in 12 of 16 episodes of the second season of “Nip/Tuck.” Ms. Janssen will portray a life coach for the character played by co-star Joely Richardson.

College Television Awards Announced: The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Foundation announced the winners of the 25th Annual College Television Awards on Monday.

This year’s first-place honorees come from the University of Southern California, Columbia University, Florida State University Graduate Film School, Florida State University Film School, California Institute of the Arts, Brigham Young University, Northwestern University and Ithaca College.

Joined by the second-place and third-place finishers, the honorees will come to Hollywood for an awards ceremony Sunday at the Renaissance Hotel. The event will be emceed by actor Christopher McDonald of Fox’s “Cracking Up.”

The next day, winning films will be screened at the College Television Awards Festival hosted by Josh Schwartz, creator and executive producer of “The O.C.” Montages of the second- and third-place films will also be shown.

Sprint to Offer ‘Sopranos’ Ring: Sprint PCS Vision phone customers can have their phone ring with a bada-bing. The cellphone company made a deal with HBO to use content from “The Sopranos,” including the show’s theme song. Also available to Sprint customers: a “Sopranos” screen saver, trivia game, episode previews and recaps and replay alerts.

History Channel to Launch Six New Series: History Channel said it will launch six new series during 2004 and 2005. Keith Carradine hosts one of the series, “Wild West Tech,” which deals with the technology used on the American frontier and premieres March 30.

History Channel also plans a number of specials, including “The True Story of Alexander the Great” and “Ben Franklin” in the third quarter and “To the Best of My Ability,” an eight-hour miniseries based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning book, in the first quarter.

McDermott Named President of Young Broadcasting: Deb McDermott has been promoted to president of Young Broadcasting and has been nominated for a spot on Young’s nine-member board of directors. Ms. McDermott, who has been Young’s executive VP of operations since May 1996, will succeed Ronald Kw
asnick, who is retiring for personal reasons March 31 after 18 years as president.

Ms. McDermott, who will report to Young Chairman Vincent Young, restructured the group’s management last year by promoting three of Young’s general managers to regional VPs who absorbed some corporate responsibilities. She does not plan to replace herself with a new operations executive but will expand on what she has been doing for Young, which owns 11 TV stations and the Adam Young national TV rep firm.

“I’m just very excited about the new responsibility,” said Ms. McDermott, an Emmy winner who was VP and general manager of Young-owned ABC affiliate WKRN-TV in Nashville before to taking the group operations job. She also is the chairwoman of the ABC Affiliates Association.

“There are very few executives in the broadcasting business who have the depth of experience that Deb enjoys,” said Mr. Young. “She knows the inner workings of each and every one of our stations and she has also assumed leadership positions within our industry.”

Adelphia, N2 Broadband Join Forces: As part of its effort to ramp up its video-on-demand service, Adelphia Communications has partnered with N2 Broadband to use its OpenStream platform to support the cable operator’s on-demand service.

OpenStream is a digital services platform that integrates the back-office functions to the on-demand service and allows operators to mix and match equipment from different vendors, providing an open architecture for the service rather than a proprietary one.

In the past few weeks Adelphia has moved aggressively in the VOD space. It announced that it is using Everstream to provide metrics on VOD usage and that it will rely on nCube’s servers to power its VOD service in Los Angeles. Now it has also announced that it will manage the back-office functions of its VOD business through N2’s OpenStream.

Adelphia is the second large cable operator to sign with N2. Time Warner has used OpenStream for about two years, said N2 CEOReggie Bradford.

“For the space, it demonstrates the value of open vs. closed systems as a business model going forward,” Mr. Bradford said. OpenStream also supports interactive TV services such as advanced menus, merchandising and indexing of on-demand content.