Media week reports a date for Sunbeam Television’s antitrust lawsuit against ratings company Nielsen has been set, again. The trial date is set for December 6th, 2010 with Judge Paul C. Huck presiding, the same judge who shot down Nielsen’s third attempt to dismiss Sunbeam’s lawsuit several weeks ago on March 5.
Whether the two companies will really see each other in court remains to be seen though, as they would have to begin mediation talks, and the Judge has the power to encourage the two sides to come to an agreement before a full trial.
In 2008 Nielsen settled another anti-trust lawsuit brought against them by erinMedia, a potential competitor who tried entering the TV ratings market. And in 2004 Nielsen settled out of court with Univision about local people meters but still launched the technology in Los Angeles.
Sunbeam Television is alleging that their station, WSVN, is losing over $6 million annually because of the local people meters. Sunbeam also says that in 2008 Nielsen raised WSVN’s rates 20% despite Sunbeam signing a new contract in 2007 which had the station paying between $65,711 and $87,847 a month for ratings.
Nielsen on their part refutes Sunbeam’s claims and essentially says they’re mad because they lost viewers when the local people meters debuted (Sunbeam is alleging as much as 50% 18-39 year olds disappeared overnight). Interestingly, Nielsen has publically maintained that both their old diary methodology and the new people meters are flawless even though in their court filing they state WSVN just wants the “older, less accurate methodology” to be reinstated since it favored them.
Nielsen also claims their ratings are just an opinion and are protected by the First Amendment! And compares it to what rating agency Moodys (yes that Moodys) does by issuing ratings for bonds, stocks and other financial instruments and companies.
Nielsen also says Sunbeam/WSVN have failed to show that competitors are willing and able to enter the Miami market. But according to Sunbeam, and statements by others and articles in the press, Nielsen allegedly requires station owners to sign contracts which specifically forbid the TV station from using a competing television ratings service at the same time, with heavy penalties.