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India TV firm sues Nielsen for ratings 'manipulation'

Published Aug 01, 2012 06:23am

People watching television at a shop in New Delhi.–Photo by AFP

NEW DELHI: India's NDTV has sued TV audience measurement firm TAM India and its global parents, Nielsen and Kantar, for over $1.3 billion, accusing them of manipulating ratings data, reports said Wednesday.

In a 194-page lawsuit filed in the Supreme Court of New York, NDTV alleged the defendants manipulated viewership data in favour of channels who “paid” money, the Business Standard and other media reported.

Ratings agencies earn billions of dollars annually by selling data on viewership patterns and ratings of broadcasters used by advertisers for marketing and advertising plans.

Highest viewed broadcasters typically get the most advertising money.

NDTV (New Delhi Television Ltd) alleged in the suit that widespread data manipulation had been going on for over eight years, making it appear fewer people were watching NDTV channels than actually were – causing the broadcaster financial losses.

NDTV, India's oldest private TV network, is demanding at least $810 million for fraud and at least $580 million to compensate for those losses, according to the suit, said the Hollywood Reporter magazine.

NDTV also accused Nielsen and Kantor of operating worldwide through a complex web of subsidiaries and joint ventures and abusing the power of TAM's monopoly in India. TAM is India's only TV ratings firm.

The suit alleged that the defendants' acts have had a “catastrophic effects on customers, on the television industry, on customers and on viewers” around the world including the United States.

TAM is a joint venture between global ratings giant Nielsen and Kantar Media Research, another leading international player in the audience measurement industry.

NDTV is also seeking hundreds of millions of dollars more for other alleged wrongdoings including breach of duty,

The suit singled out Nielsen, calling it a case “of a once noble company...

exhibiting unabashed short-term greed”.

The Indian reports quoted a Nielsen spokesman as saying the firm “has a longstanding policy of not commenting on pending legal matters” while an NDTV spokesman said the group would not comment as the case was under review.