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Nielsen flap flares

Albany stations seeking lost sales revenues

NEW YORK — The furor over the cooked Nielsen diary in Albany, N.Y., won’t die down.

In an effort to address the concerns of the Albany stations that lost roughly $400,000 in sales revenue because of the rigged diary, Ron Meyer, a vice president of marketing for Nielsen Media Research, traveled upstate on Monday to meet with each Albany station.

But the stations want more than an explanation about how the improper diary was initially included in the November books and what safeguards will be put into place so it doesn’t happen again. The Albany stations want money — either from Nielsen or the station that cooked the books, WXXA.

The fracas started when personnel from WRGB-TV, a CBS affiliate owned by Freedom Communications, discovered a suspicious diary during the station’s regular examination of the data. A diary from a household of a WXXA employee claimed that nine adults watched WXXA almost around the clock.

Because station employees are not allowed to participate in the Nielsen diary sample, the ratings company had to reissue the November Albany book.

Albany NBC affiliate WNYT-TV, owned by Hubbard Broadcasting, and WRGB calculate that because of the cooked diary, WXXA received in the neighborhood of $400,000 that should have gone to other stations in the market. WNYT general manager Steve Baboulis said that his station lost more than $100,000, and he believes both of the other stations lost more than six figures as well.

“In a market this size, that makes an impact,” said Baboulis.

Freedom Communications executives hold Nielsen, not WXXA, responsible for the snafu, and they’ve asked Nielsen to pay the station for the lost revenue. WNYT’s Baboulis hasn’t yet decided whether Nielsen or WXXA is responsible for paying his station.

“Nielsen said they have abided by their contract with us, and WXXA is responsible,” said Baboulis. “We think that Nielsen and WXXA are in the difficult situation here.”

While he doesn’t relish the prospect of getting into a lawsuit with Nielsen, Freedom Communications president Alan Bell said he expects Nielsen to make up for the lost revenue, and he emphasized that he will not let the matter drop.

“We think this is a serious issue. We’d like to see a great concern on the part of Nielsen and a willingness to make good,” said Bell.

Nielsen spokesman Jack Loftus said that now that Meyer met with all the stations in Albany, Nielsen will get back to them with a proposal.

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