Nielsen has de-listed all the stations in the nation’s largest market for last Friday’s access slot, due to a newspaper ad urging Nielsen families to tune into “You Bet Your Life.”Even mentioning Nielsen in spots during the all-important sweeps period is an extreme no-no and virtually assures that the station’s ratings for the program will be thrown out of the ratings book for the day or longer. “Nielsen Families, meter check tonight, watch Bill Cosby,” touted the spot, purchased by “You Bet’s” parent Carsey-Werner Distribution. As a result of the quarter-page ad–an apparent first for theTV industry–Nielsen de-listed all of the Gotham stations from 7-7:30 p.m. Friday evening. “We’re doing that because we don’t know what the full effect of the ad will be on the marketplace,” explained a Nielsen spokeswoman. C-W Distribution prez Bob Jacobs Friday defended the ad, insisting that he violated none of the existing Nielsen rules. He cited one reg that prohibits clients from obtaining the address of a Nielsen household or other information about Nielsen families, but nothing concerning ads. In response, the Nielsen spokeswoman said, “They’re doing everything but knocking on their (Nielsen families’) doors with this ad.” “I wasn’t aware it was going to run,” said station general manager Bud Carey. “I was a bit aghast when I saw it.” However, after speaking with Carsey-Werner execs, Carey said he does believe they were simply unaware of the Nielsen rules. According to Nielsen guidelines cited by the company rep, any time a station or programmer runs any type of advertising soliciting Nielsen homes, the service reserves the right to review the situation. In some cases, the program is simply de-listed; in cases like this one, the entire market is dismissed for the half-hour. And other times, there is no response. Jacobs faulted Nielsen, questioning whether “Nielsen families are so stupid that someone would say, ‘Hey, honey, this ad says our meter is on the blink. We have to watch Cosby tonight to fix it.’ “ The controversy is reminiscent of a similar incident several years ago when then-KABC-TV general manager John Severino ran a news series on Nielsen families during the May sweeps. The blatant tactic, which included an interview with the head of Nielsen, brought a swift de-listing from the ratings company. Severino also took issue with the rules, which required that all broadcasts be de-listed if someone on a broadcast mentioned Nielsen families. The G.M. theatened to have his anchors mention the unmentionable only on Thursday nights, which would have wiped out the huge lead-in advantage provided then from “L.A. Law” for KNBC-TV’s 11 p.m. news. Although he never carried out his threat, Severino said it made the ratings service think twice about its rules. C-W’s move was seen as a desperate move to boost ratings during the critical November sweeps. Since debuting on WCBS-TV this fall, “You Bet” has done little for the station’s ratings. According to Nielsen statistics for the first week of the November sweeps, the program generated a 4 rating/7 share, to finish dead last in the key 7 p.m. race. The comedy gameshow appears to beworking better outside the nation’s two largest TV markets, N.Y. and L.A.
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