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Apr 6, 2004  •  Post A Comment

Nielsen Delays N.Y. People Meter Rollout to June 3

Nielsen Media Research has delayed for two months the switchover to Local People Meters in New York. The switch had been scheduled to take place Thursday and now will take place June 3.

Nielsen’s change of heart was announced today by Nielsen Media Research President and CEO Susan Whiting and Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., at a press conference held at Rep. Rangel’s Harlem offices.

The announcement explained the move as allowing “time for more extensive communication regarding the benefits and accuracy of LPMs” and said Nielsen “will use the additional time to meet with clients, elected officials and community leaders who have inquired about the system over the past week.” Rep. Rangel and Ms. Whiting also announced the formation of an ongoing Task Force on TV Measurement “to study means of ensuring the accurate counting of African American and Latino viewers” and “to ensure that people of color are fully counted in TV ratings and to review future initiatives to make certain that networks, stations and advertisers have the best possible information on which to base their decisions.” The task force will consist of industry and community leaders and will be announced soon by Rep. Rangel and Nielsen.

Rep. Rangel said, “We are aware that success in television is dependent on the ratings and we want to be certain that our choices are recognized and accurately reflected. I believe Nielsen is committed to ensuring that its ratings correctly mirror the viewing patterns of African American and Latino audiences, and I appreciate the gesture they are making in postponing the launch of Local People Meters in order to first answer questions that have been raised about this technology.”

The issue has become heavily politicized in the two weeks since Lachlan Murdoch, chairman of the Fox-owned stations, went on the offensive against Nielsen, claiming the Local People Meter methodology was flawed and needed to be reviewed before further rollout. Mr. Murdoch suggested the LPMs might undercount viewership among minority and young viewers by as much as 25 percent.

The specter of such a shortfall, arrived at while the new LPM sample was still far from complete, became a rallying cry for advocacy groups, which got local, state and national politicians to add to the pressure on Nielsen. In addition to protests, including one in front of Nielsen offices in Manhattan, a new coalition, Don’t Count Us Out, one of whose members is Fox, took out a full-page ad in Spanish-language newspapers and the News Corp.-owned New York Post.

Nielsen spokesman Jack Loftus said that although his company has set June 3 as the switchover for business purposes, clients can continue to sell off the old May book if they choose. He also said that diaries will be dispensed as usual for the ratings period.

As for possible contamination of the sample, he said Nielsen shares that concern. He said that Nielsen has been “spammed” and its switchboard has been swamped by e-mails and calls that seem organized and “designed to discredit Nielsen and discredit the sample.”

Asked about the state of the old sample, Mr. Loftus said, “We are doing everything we can to make sure it stays up to snuff.”

‘Stones,’ ‘Cracking’ Get Benched: CBS has pulled the midseason sitcom “The Stones” off the air, starting immediately. For the next two weeks, CBS will air “King of Queens” repeats in its Wednesday 9:30 p.m. time slot following original “King of Queens” episodes. “The Stones” is officially on hiatus.

Also back on the bench is sitcom “Cracking Up,” which Fox has put on hiatus after it pulled a 1.6/5 in adults 18 to 49 and 3.4 million viewers Monday night, according to Nielsen Media Research. “Cracking Up’s” Monday 8:30 p.m. time slot will be filled with reruns of “Bernie Mac.”

Pearlman to Leave Warner Bros.: Steve Pearlman is leaving the executive ranks at Warner Bros. to start his own production company at the studio. Mr. Pearlman, who joined Warner Bros. (then called Lorimar) in 1986, will remain in his position as executive VP of creative affairs for Warner Bros. Television until the end of May. He will then set up shop on the lot with his own company, Class V Productions. He has a two-year, seven-figure overall development deal.

VH1 Picks Up ‘Surreal Life’: VH1 has picked up the third season of “The Surreal Life,” the celebrity-based reality show that aired on The WB during its first two seasons. The third season of “The Surreal Life” will consist of 10 episodes and is set to premiere on VH1 in third quarter.

Rice’s Testimony to 9/11 Commission Will be Televised: The public testimony of National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice before the 9/11 Commission will be covered live and extensively by TV news organizations, starting at 9 a.m. (ET) Thursday morning.

ABC News coverage will be anchored from Washington by Peter Jennings, who will have key capital talent on tap for analysis and highlights.

Dan Rather plans to anchor CBS News coverage from New York. CNN also will cover Ms. Rice’s testimony from beginning to end. MSNBC will follow its live coverage with a special hour-long edition of “Hardball.” NBC News coverage will be anchored by Tom Brokaw and Tim Russert from New York.

Walden Named VP of HRTS: Dana Walden, co-president of 20th Century Fox Television studio, was named VP of the Hollywood Radio & Television Society. “Dana has been on the board of directors of HRTS for several years and is therefore very familiar with the organization and its goals,” said HRTS President Jordan Levin. “[HRTS Executive Director] Dave [Ferrara] and I are happy to be able to work with Dana in this position and we are confident that her experience and creativity will bring a lot to HRTS.” The HRTS is a nonprofit organization of West Coast media executives.

Trio Intros New Programming: Cable network Trio’s schedule will be full of flops in June. The network, which previously programmed shows it called “Brilliant but Canceled” said it will “celebrate” pop culture’s great failures. Trio has two new original documentaries: “Flops 101: Lessons From the Biz” and “Final Cut: The Making of ‘Heaven’s Gate’ and the Unmaking of a Studio.” Trio plans to show episodes of “Cop Rock,” “My Mother the Car” and “Pink Lady and Jeff,” the movies “Waterworld,” “Dune” and “Jade,” and a selection of Madonna films.

‘Wonderfalls’ Canceled: Fox has canceled midseason drama “Wonderfalls” after four airings. The show, which garnered positive critical attention, moved to Thursday nights at 9 p.m. last week against two of the most popular shows on television: NBC’s “The Apprentice” and CBS’s “CSI,” and earned terrible ratings. It scored a 1.0 Nielsen Media Research rating and 3 share in adults 18 to 49, below the 1.7/4 the time period had averaged the four weeks before. It managed to attract only 2.9 million total viewers. Those numbers were even worse than the 1.6/5 and 3.8 million viewers it averaged in a not “very” friendly Friday night time slot the three weeks before. Fox now plans to air same-week repeats of its new reality show “The Swan” at 9 p.m. Thursdays.

News Corp. to Reincorporate in the U.S.: Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. on Tuesday said that it will reincorporate in the United States as a Delaware company in a bid to expand the media giant’s investor base and lower the company cost to access capital.

The plan, which should be completed by the end of the year, involves exchanging one-for-one each voting and nonvoting shares in the Australian-based company for a voting and nonvoting share in the U.S.-based entity, which will be called New News Corp. during the transition. The new U.S.-based shares will trade on the New York Stock Exchange and are expected to eventually join the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index.

“The bulk of our operations and revenues now come from the U.S., and being a foreign issue leaves many U.S. investors unable or unwilling to invest in the News Corp.,” Rupert Murdoch said. “This increases the company’s value.”

Indeed, the company said it believes that it being an Australian company has robbed it of the opportunity to expand i
ts investor base, as many big-name institutional investors either limit or avoid altogether investing in companies based overseas. News Corp. currently trades on the New York Stock Exchange using American depository shares.

The reincorporation will also make it easier for News Corp. to make acquisitions, Mr. Murdoch said, though one transaction that is not up for consideration is folding Fox Entertainment Group into the larger company.

“We don’t intend to do anything about Fox,” Mr. Murdoch said. “We have 82 percent and see no particular point in changing that at the moment.”

The company is also expecting a narrowing of the discount between the widely traded nonvoting stock and voting stock after the reincorporation.

As part of the change in domicile, News Corp. said it will acquire the 58 percent stake in Queensland Press, which owns newspapers in Australia, that it didn’t already own from parties controlled by Mr. Murdoch and his family. The move simplifies the ownership structure of Mr. Murdoch’s holdings in News Corp. and consolidates a solid free cash flow producing asset, noted Fulcrum Global Partners analyst Richard Greenfield.